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Operation ‘FuelCall’ underway at AAFES installations

BY CSA STAFF

The Army & Air Force Exchange Service is making it easier for disabled veterans to buy gas at 370 of its stores worldwide thanks to a full-service initiative called FuelCall.

AAFES worked with U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois to secure $1.12 million in funding from the Department of Defense for the addition of FuelCall assistance systems at 370 Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps installations worldwide. FuelCall is essentially an oversize button on a clearly signed pole which allows drivers with disabilities to alert associates inside the store that they need assistance fueling their vehicle.

“All persons with disabilities, including thousands of returning veterans, active service members, as well as military families with physical disabilities, understand the difficulty of filling up their tanks at gas stations that are supposedly accessible,” said Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who lost the use of her legs and partial use of her right arm after her helicopter was hit by a rocket propelled grenade in 2004. “We must do better. The ability to drive independently is key to the American lifestyle. Ensuring that disabled Americans can consistently and safely refuel their vehicles is critical to their ability to live independent and fulfilling lives. I applaud AAFES and the Department of Defense for their leadership on this issue, and I hope it serves as an example for gas station owners throughout our country.”

So far, 16 AAFES Express station have installed FuelCall and 38 additional locations are due to be added later this month. Plans call for the system to be added to 215 Express locations in the U.S. and overseas by May.

When an Express location equipped with the system has more than one associate on duty, motorists with a disability license plate or placard may have their gas pumped for them. Signs clearly identify what pump islands have the system and list the hours the service is available.

“Making gas stations accessible to drivers with disabilities is a priority,” said Exchange Real Estate Vice President Michael Smietana. “This system allows wounded warriors and others with disabilities to easily get assistance at the pump without frustration.”

AAFES is a unique entity that pursues a dual mission of providing authorized patrons with quality merchandise and services at competitively low prices and generating non-appropriated fund earnings as a supplemental source of funding for military morale, welfare and recreation programs. From an organizational standpoint, AAFES is what’s known in Washington, D.C. jargon as a joint non-appropriated fund instrumentality of the Department of Defense that is directed by a Board of Directors which is responsible to the Secretaries of the Army and the Air Force through the Service Chiefs of Staff.

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Unilever and Sam’s Club team up for dads

BY CSA STAFF

Unilever is trying to grow sales of men’s skin care products by targeting fathers with innovative workshops at Sam’s Club.

Dove Men+Care and Family First's national nonprofit fatherhood program, All Pro Dad, will present All Pro Dad in-Club interactive workshops at 60 Sam's Clubs in the Top 30 markets across the country on Jan. 17.

These workshops will showcase special ways for fathers and kids to connect with "Kid Time Coupons" and "10 Ways to Be an All Pro Dad Trading Cards." A complete list of participating Sam's Club locations can we viewed online at www.allprodad.com/dove.

Darrin Gray, director of partnerships at Family First and All Pro Dad, said: "Dads are so awesome! That's why we are thrilled to partner with Dove Men+Care and Sam's Club. Together, we will celebrate dads for being champions to their kids."

All Pro Dad, a national nonprofit, has successfully served millions of fathers for more than 17 years by providing special resources for fathers and positioning fatherhood as a top national priority.

Sam's Club operates 645 warehouses all over the world.

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Wet Seal files Chapter 11

BY Dan Berthiaume

Foothill Ranch, Calif. – In a move that was somewhat expected, The Wet Seal Inc. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The move comes a week after the struggling teen retailer said it was closing 338 of its stores, leaving it with approximately 173 stores nationwide.

“After careful consideration, the Board of Directors unanimously concluded that filing for Chapter 11 was the appropriate course of action for the Company,” said CEO Ed Thomas.

Wet Seal plans to continue operations with a $20 million loan facility that is part of a debtor in possession financing arrangement it has reached with B. Riley Financial Inc. The company also has $31 million in cash on hand.

Wet Seal has asked the court for authority to make wage and salary payments, continue employee benefits, and honor gift cards and returns on purchases prior to the bankruptcy filing. The retailer said it intends to rebuild its business based on its existing stores and Internet business.

The Wet Seal announced it would close 338 stores, or about 66% of its total portfolio, on Jan. 7, resulting in the termination of some 3,695 full- and part-time employees. The retailer said the decision to close the stores was based on its overall financial condition and an inability to negotiate meaningful concessions from its landlords.

Similar to many other teen apparel retailers, Wet Seal has been hurt by a combination of slowing mall traffic and increased competition from such fast-fashion players as Forever 21 and H&M, and online upstarts. The company lost more than $150 million during the past two years.

In December, the retailer warned that it could file for bankruptcy protection if it was unsuccessful in addressing short-term liquidity needs. The retailer had previously engaged Houlihan Lokey and FTI Consulting to help it explore financing alternatives.

In the past month, fellow specialty apparel retailers Deb Shops, Delia’s and Body Central have also filed for bankruptcy.

“After careful consideration, the board of directors unanimously concluded that filing for Chapter 11 was the appropriate course of action for the company,” said Ed Thomas, CEO of Wet Seal. “Overall, we continue to believe in The Wet Seal and remain committed to executing on the strategic steps that we already started. We are thrilled to be working with B. Riley and other constituencies toward the successful and prompt emergence of the Company from Chapter 11.”

The Wet Seal bankruptcy case is in the U.S. Bankruptcy court District of Delaware; case no: 15-10082.

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