August 6, 2017

That’s because the Army & Air Force Exchange Service is expanding to the online world.

Where you would previously need to visit an exchange in person to take advantage of the bargain prices with no taxes, by November 11, you’ll be able to order products through an exchange website and either pick your order up or have it delivered.

Why the sudden change in business model?

Look no farther than the ecommerce giant, Amazon.com. Here’s more on the changes that are coming to the exchange and other ways for veterans to get discounts when they shop online.

Updating How the Exchanges Work

In 2012, the Exchange Service hired its first civilian CEO, Tom Shull. At the time, it was projected to lose $180 million for the year. Part of the problem was the lack of online shopping opportunities, especially with the number of veterans growing and the number of active-duty military personnel on the way down, decreasing by 13 percent from 2011 to 2017.

In addition, the exchange stores were behind the times when Shull took over. They had an industrial style that paled in comparison to modern retail locations, and despite the low prices, the bulk of their product selection was off-brand merchandise which didn’t appeal to customers like famous brand names.

The difference Shull has made in the overall exchange store experience is readily apparent when you step inside one today. The stores now have a more contemporary design, and there are plenty of major brands to choose from.

Of course, the elephant in the room is still online shopping, and it leaves veterans in a tough spot. They may get the best deals by going to an exchange store, but Amazon is also able to offer products at excellent prices, and it will deliver them to your door.

The online retailer has been consistently improving its delivery timeframes, as well. Two-day shipping on products that are fulfilled by Amazon comes free with an Amazon Prime membership, and quite a few products are even available for same-day delivery.

Shull realized that with the decrease in active-duty personnel and the growing number of veterans, making the jump to the ecommerce was a necessity.

How Online Shopping Will Work Through the Exchange

Although the launch date for online exchange shopping is set for November 11, beta testers already have access to it. Only authorized shoppers will be able to access the sites and place orders, so in that regard, it will be the same as shopping at an exchange store in person.

All veterans who received an honorable discharge will be able to shop on the sites, and it’s expected that this will increase the customer base for exchange stores by about 13 million.

When you place an order online, you’ll have two options regarding how you get it – you can have it sent to an exchange store so you can pick it up there, or you can enter an address for delivery. To handle the increased shipping demands, the exchange has been putting shipping centers in more of its stores.

As of July 2017, there are 26 exchange stores that have shipping centers. The goal is to increase that number to 55 before the end of the year.

The exchange is already competitive with Amazon and other online retailers in terms of its shipping time frame, as it can have most orders to the customer within two days. A greater number of shipping centers will only improve shipping time frames. By 2020, Shull wants to have orders delivered on base in two hours or less.

Online Veteran Discounts Aren’t Limited to the Exchange

Veteran discounts are fairly common, but unfortunately, many companies only offer them at their physical locations and not through their websites. This takes away from the convenience aspect, especially for veterans who prefer shopping from the comfort of their own homes.

There are still several major companies that offer online veteran discounts, though. Under Armour is one of the more notable brands, and it has a 10-percent veteran discount, allowing you to save a good amount on any order.

Overstock offers free Club O memberships to veterans, which normally cost $19.95 and include free shipping. Apple has a Military/Government & Veterans Purchase Program which entitles veterans to special discount pricing on select products.

Many veterans are firearm enthusiasts, and the good news is that there are easy ways for them to save money when purchasing both guns and gun safes to keep those firearms safe.

Firearm Discounts for Veterans

Depending on the gun you want, you could end up spending hundreds or thousands of dollars. Fortunately, many firearm manufacturers and retailers offer veteran discounts.

Buds Gun Shop and Prepper Gun Shop both offer special discounted prices for retired military, and Cabelas has a 5-percent veteran discount that’s available on its website and in all its stores. Among manufacturers, FN and Smith and Wesson are two that have veteran discounts, with FN offering discount pricing and Smith and Wesson offering rebates.

Discounts are great, but what if you need firearms financing? Two helpful options are payment and layaway programs. With a payment program, you can order the gun you want, and then make payments on the purchase price. With a layaway program, you’re essentially reserving the gun, and then making payments on it. Once you pay for it in full, the retailer will ship it to you.

Deals on Gun Safes

Part of being a responsible gun owner means securing guns when they’re not in use, and the most effective way to do that is with a gun safe. It helps prevent your guns from falling into the wrong hands, be that a child who is at your home or a thief who breaks in. But gun safes can get expensive, especially if you have a substantial collection of guns and need a large safe to hold all of them.

Liberty Safe makes the cost of buying a gun safe much more manageable for veterans with its $100 rebate offer. The manufacturer has a solid lineup of gun safes which are known for their quality, and several of its safes have even made best gun safe lists. Its safes are also available at multiple different price points, including just over $500, $1,000 and $2,000. With that $100 rebate, you could end up with an excellent bargain.

Getting the Best Deals

In years past, you would typically need to make a choice between shopping online or using a veteran discount. That’s no longer the case.

From firearms manufacturers to everyday retailers, there are all sorts of companies that have veteran discounts for online shoppers. You can find information about these on each company’s website, and confirming your veteran status is often as simple as inputting an ID number.

The online store launching for the exchange should be particularly helpful for veterans. Initial impressions indicate that it could provide the convenience and speed of Amazon, with the discounts you’ve come to expect when you shop on base.

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