Shopping at your local Coast Guard Exchange (CGX) has its perks—like discounted prices, hard-to-attain items and tax-free purchases—but perhaps the Exchange’s greatest reward is in how its revenue is reinvested back into the Coast Guard community. And, that support has increased through recently expanded patronage shopping privileges granted to the Department of Defense (DoD) civilian employees on May 1, 2021, and to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) civilian employees in May 2018, allowing them all to shop at the 64 retail CGX locations.
Thanks to the April 2021 directive, DoD and Coast Guard civilian employees are authorized to shop at military exchange stores throughout the United States and U.S. territories, with the exception of purchasing uniforms, tobacco or alcohol products. Out of 64 exchange locations, 10 of them are in commercial retail locations outside of military bases but are estimated to be within a 10 to 15-mile radius from other military patrons. DHS civil service employees were granted shopping privileges through a signed memorandum from the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS).
Shopping at the CGX directly supports the Coast Guard’s Morale, Well-being, and Recreation (MWR) program and the men and women of the Coast Guard. Annually, the CGX shares their profits with the MWR program in the form of a MWR dividend that supports each active duty member. Over the past 10 years, the CGX has given over $27 million to MWR which has directly supported the readiness, retention, and resiliency of the active duty force. Additionally, in 2021, the CGX provided additional non-appropriated funding to support the newly established MWR Capital Improvement Fund (CIF), which supported capital investments into the MWR program across the Coast Guard. During this first year of the CIF, the funding supported 80 projects, which provided needed upgrades to MWR activities, to include the child development centers.
The CGX itself is a non-appropriated fund entity, which means Congress requires it to operate but it does not receive government funds. This is a major difference between exchanges and commissaries, which sell groceries and receive funds through taxpayer dollars. Whereas the CGX sells handbags, electronics, apparel, and outdoor products and are the exclusive destination for the purchase of Coast Guard uniforms.
“I have worked for other commercial retailers, but my favorite thing about working at the Coast Guard Exchange is that our shareholders wear the cloth of our country and our dividends are actually invested back into the Coast Guard,” said John Reiley, chief operating officer of the Coast Guard Exchange.
Perhaps it is that feeling of pride and connection, its reinvestment strategy, or the expanded patronage, that served to strengthen support of the CGX, even throughout the global pandemic. “Last year was the most profitable year that we have ever had,” explained Reiley. “Our customers had a sense of comfort and safety when shopping at their local exchange. We are still very cognizant of safety at our stores and customers have a comfort level with their Coast Guard Exchange that they may not have with other retailers,” he said. “In addition, our online store had an increase in excess of 200% and produced its best year ever as well.”
In fact, the exchange location at Coast Guard Headquarters never closed as a result of COVID-19. “It was an amazing effort to keep that store open last year during the COVID pandemic. We credit our store manager, Christy Jordan, who personally picked up employees so that work could continue,” said Reiley.
Coast Guard, DHS and DoD patrons can look forward to additional benefits and service offerings when visiting their local CGX, including an expanded retail footprint. The CGX team is in the process of constructing a location in Caguas, Puerto Rico, which is slated to open this summer. In addition, CGX will also open their ninth Coast Guard Express Micro Mart, which is a year-round, 24-7 unmanned store providing assorted fresh sandwiches, salads, drinks and snacks with a self-checkout system that allows patrons to pay using their credit cards, phones or even their fingerprints. The first West Coast Micro Mart location opened in Petaluma on April 22nd, with six additional locations opening in 2021. Current locations include the Coast Guard Academy, Elizabeth City and Boston amongst others.
Cmdr. Robert Taylor is the executive officer of the Community Services Command which oversees the Coast Guard Exchange, the Coast Guard MWR programs and the Non-Appropriated Fund (NAF) Center of Excellence.
“Earnings from the CGX fund our NAF payroll for the CGX stores and the Community Services Command which supports the entire Coast Guard non-appropriated workforce,” said Taylor. “There are more than 1,300 NAF positions ranging from entry-level to senior management and 10% of the NAF positions are filled by military members or are related to military members. As CGX continues to grow, we’re hiring, and all available NAF positions are posted online at shopCGX.com.”
Taylor summarizes by saying, “Shopping at your Coast Guard Exchange is critical to the support of our Coast Guard, and our Morale Well-being and Recreation programs, or as we like to say, put your money where your Morale is!”
Check out the latest products and deals by visiting the Coast Guard Exchange website.