Some 225,000 veterans in the Dallas-Fort Worth area -- and 18.5 million nationwide -- will have access to tax-free online shopping at the Army & Air Force Exchange Service starting Saturday, a major change for the 122-year-old retailer for the military.
The shift was the brainchild of Tom Shull, the director and CEO of the Exchange Service, the U.S. Department of Defense's oldest, largest retailer. Exchange Service shopping previously had been available only to active military and retirees -- those who had served at least 20 years.
"It was my idea a number of years ago, I guess in part because I was looking for ways to honor veterans who have served previously," said Shull, a Vietnam-era veteran, in an interview from the Exchange Service headquarters in Dallas. "As we went through downsizing in the Army, tens of thousands of soldiers didn't have the opportunity to stay for 20 years or more."
The Exchange Service is available to all the military services, Shull said, and has been serving roughly 12 million shoppers.
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The online shopping benefit is expected to reach about 122,000 veterans in Tarrant County, he said, and another 103,000 in Dallas County.
Steven Gage of Fort Worth, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, has been beta-testing the shopping benefit.
"The prices are competitive, you order online and it's free freight as well," he said Thursday. "They sell everything. It's been very convenient."
About 60 to 70 percent of the Exchange Service's earnings support quality of life programs such as child development centers and school lunches for military dependents overseas, Shull said. The rest, he said, is reinvested to upgrade facilities.
In addition to tax-free shopping, those who use the Exchange Service can pay 20 to 30 percent off suggested retail prices, Shull said, due in part to military-exclusive pricing.
Much like a large department store, the Exchange Service offers electronics, clothing, furniture and carries national brands, including designer labels such as Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, and brands such as Under Armour and Ashley Furniture.
Veterans who want to shop at the Exchange Service can visit www.shopmyexchange.com and register online starting Saturday. For help and information, call 1-844-868-8672.