Thomas C. Shull Director/Chief Executive Officer, Army and Air Force Exchange Service
Tom Shull is Director/CEO of the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (Exchange), headquartered in Dallas, Texas. The Exchange is a non-appropriated fund entity of the Department of Defense. Established in 1895, the Exchange today is the 61st largest retail organization in the U.S. With annual revenue of $8.6 billion, the Exchange employs approximately 35,000 associates, including military personnel. In 2017, the Exchange produced $376 million in earnings, all reinvested into the military community.
The Exchange operates nearly 2,700 facilities, including department and convenience stores, restaurants, malls, movie theaters, gas stations, and other specialty retail businesses on military installations in 49 states, four U.S. territories and 34 countries. Additionally, the Exchange operates an approximately $2.5 billion receivables credit card portfolio. In order to support combat readiness and provide foreign-based service members and their families with U.S. products, the Exchange also operates bakeries in Europe and Asia and water plants in Europe under six licenses from U.S. consumer goods companies, including Wonder Bread, Krispy Kreme and Culligan.
The Exchange provides troops with more than 1.1 million combat uniforms and serves more than 2.6 million school lunches to Warfighters’ children overseas every year. A major employer of Veterans and military spouses, the Exchange has hired more than 1,200 Wounded Warriors since 2010.
Mr. Shull serves on the Exchange Board of Directors and its Executive Committee alongside Lieutenant General Aundre Piggee, the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4, and Lieutenant General Gina Grosso, Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, Headquarters U.S. Air Force.
Mr. Shull has drawn upon extensive private-sector retail experience to transform the Exchange into a thriving benefit supporting military readiness and resiliency. Since 2011, the Exchange has nearly doubled its profitability as net earnings as a percent of sales rose from 3.2 percent to 5.6 percent. The Exchange’s operating earnings as a percentage of sales are now 10.5 percent, higher than those of both Walmart (6 percent) and Target (9.6 percent). This improvement was achieved despite an 11 percent decline in Army and Air Force personnel due to ongoing military drawdowns.
Mr. Shull is a 1973 graduate of the United States Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree. He received a Master of Business Administration with honors from Harvard Business School in 1981. His military education included Ranger and Airborne schools. He had numerous line and staff assignments including assistant professor at the U.S. Military Academy and commander of a mechanized infantry company.
Mr. Shull’s awards and decorations include the Presidential Service Badge, Defense Superior Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Expert Infantryman's Badge, Ranger Tab, Airborne Wings, the Reserve Officer Association’s Minuteman Hall of Fame, and the American Logistics Association Distinguished Service award. In his last active-duty assignment, then-Major Shull was Military Assistant to Robert C. McFarlane, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.
Prior to his selection as the first civilian Director/CEO of the Exchange, Mr. Shull co-founded Meridian Ventures Inc. in 1991 and served as President & CEO from 1991-2012. He advised numerous clients, including Federated Department Stores, Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, Mobil Corporation, Tecstar Corporation and Spiegel Brands, on improving revenues and profit.
Mr. Shull has successfully turned around four major commercial businesses other than the Exchange.
- From 2004 to 2008, Mr. Shull served as Chairman and CEO of Wise Foods, Inc., one of the nation’s leading snack food companies. During this time, earnings increased by 10 percentage points, positioning the company for sale after the successful turnaround.
- During his tenure as CEO and President of direct-marketing company Hanover Direct, Inc., profits increased by $45 million on a $460 million sales base, and ecommerce sales accelerated from less than $20 million to more than $125 million between 2000 and 2004.
- From 1997 to 1999, Mr. Shull served as the first non-family member CEO of Barneys New York, leading the luxury retailer out of bankruptcy and realizing an earnings improvement of 6 percentage points.
- As a Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning, Group Senior Vice President and then Executive Vice President of Macy's from 1992 to 1994, Mr. Shull developed the company's restructuring plan and served as principal negotiator in Macy's exit from bankruptcy and sale to Federated Department Stores.
Mr. Shull is past Chairman of the Deafness Research Foundation, the largest private charity funding research in the causes and treatment of hearing loss. He is a former member of the Board of Trustees for the Association of Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy. He is also a member of the West Point Association and serves as the Class of 1973 treasurer.
Mr. Shull was elected to the Board of Directors of Zale Corporation from 2004 to 2010, where he served on the Compensation Committee and chaired the Audit Committee for three years. In this role, he successfully resolved two SEC investigations and helped the company improve its governance and accounting practices through an early adoption of Sarbanes-Oxley requirements.
Read the December 2018 Director/CEO Newsletter.