Team Exchange Readies for Black Friday Weekend

<b>Black Friday 2021 shoppers at the Korea Southern Exchange.</b>

Inflation and changes in customer buying habits are challenges facing all retailers this Black Friday, but Exchange leaders are cautiously optimistic and ready to adapt.

“With the pinch from inflation and higher costs, customers are buying what they need more than what they want,” said Executive Vice President and Chief Merchandising Officer Karen Cardin. “We’re promoting more of what they need. We’re promoting more clothing, more shoes and other necessities.”

Merchandising and Logistics teams have been working together to make sure that stores are fully stocked.

“There’s a normal routine we go through,” said Supply Chain Senior Vice President Alan French. “We coordinate with MD on orders that are flowing in and expedite them through the distribution centers. With orders from OCONUS, we coordinate flying of that product so that it’s there in a few days as opposed to a few weeks.”

Black Friday 2021 shoppers at the Korea Southern Exchange.

More than 100 PXs and BXs now have self-checkout, which the Exchange launched in April.

“The biggest difference this year in-store is going to be self-checkout,” said Store Operations Vice President Nicola Carter. “We’ve worked very hard with the merchandising and pricing teams to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible.”

The Exchange’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord General Manager Matt Beatty expects self-checkout to be highly beneficial during the busy weekend.

“We expect self-checkout to play a positive role,” Beatty said. “We have six self-checkout registers at the Lewis and McChord Main Stores, which will be used to supplement the normally busy manned registers during that time.”

Since 2019, no two Black Fridays have been alike, as 2020 saw a drop in retail foot traffic during the COVID pandemic and 2021 saw shoppers return to stores as restrictions eased.

“For us, the biggest difference is lifting of COVID restrictions that were still in place last year,” Beatty said. “There’s no longer a mask or social-distancing mandate and there are no limited-occupancy requirements.”

In 2021, JBLM was in the final phases of a $72.6 million expansion of the Fort Lewis Exchange, but that was completed this year and the store held a grand reopening in September. Beatty expects a more steady Black Friday this year.

“Teams are doing their normal preparation—pre-labeling, unwrapping pallets to get merchandise out on the sales floor before Black Friday weekend,” Beatty said. “It’s actually probably more normal than it has been for the past two years.”

The Exchange’s Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield General Manager Hollie Heft said that Hunter coordinates with Stewart, taking excess items from the larger store to help satisfy demand at the smaller store.

Heft said that the stores did well during Veterans Day weekend, which is usually a positive sign for Black Friday.

“For Veterans Day weekend, Hunter was up quite a bit over last year,” Heft said. “We also saw an uptick in our MILITARY STAR card penetration. If the trend holds, we’ll have a good season.”

The Exchange kicked off the holiday shopping season early with the September launch of 12 Weeks of Black Friday Deals, which runs through Nov. 23. At 12:01 a.m. Central Time Nov. 24, 8 Days of Deals will launch at and in-store for Thanksgiving weekend, Cyber Monday (Nov. 28) and Cyber Week (Nov. 29-Dec. 1).

Exchange stores, malls and restaurants will open at 8 a.m. Nov. 25.

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