Skip to main content

Exclusive discounts, expanded selection highlight AAFES’s presence online


The Army and Air Force Exchange Service faces some unique challenges when it comes to serving the diverse needs of a highly mobile base of nearly 6 million customers worldwide, which explains why online retailing has emerged as such an important growth opportunity.

The Web sites operated by AAFES, and, don’t work the same way as Web sites operated by other retailers. For example, product assortments are not even visible to Web site visitors unless they register on the sites so their status as a qualified customer can be validated. Qualified customers include active duty military, retirees, reserves, National Guard personnel, Department of State officials serving in foreign countries and their dependents.

Once inside, customers are exposed to a virtual mall occupied by multiple retail partners that have agreed to provide special discounts to military customers. The strategy behind is that it is a cost-effective means of providing customers access to a substantially broader assortment of products than the approximately 25,000 items found on where products are offered in categories typical of those found in a mass merchant.

At, retail partners can be added quickly and AAFES doesn’t have to incur the cost or operational challenges associated with adding new product categories and thousands of items to an internally administered Web site.

For example, some recently added retail partners to the virtual mall include,,,, and maternity wear retailer Plans for growth include featuring categories such as toys, puzzles, home and garden, musical instruments, electronic parts, urban-inspired clothing and online calling cards. AAFES is also looking to team up with retailers to provide new sites for online photo processing, hobbies, crafts and fabrics and online contact lenses.

As is the case in the rest of the retail world, AAFES is also looking to more closely integrate its online and physical operations. For example, recently launched a program with one of its retailers, Black Hawk Customs, to support the Military Motorcycle Safety Program. Product displays containing items required by the Department of Defense for motorcycle use on military installations and point-of-purchase materials were put into eight exchanges. In addition, display banners were distributed to other exchanges that show the range of product available and direct customers to the online store. Customers receive an additional 5% discount if they purchase a complete set of protective gear in addition to the 15% discount already offered on the site.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds