The once gigantic Army Airforce Exchange Services account, which was a perennial top 10 music account in the early 1990's, has just turned over music, DVD, and video games purchasing and fulfillment to two wholesalers.

In a sealed request-for-bid process, Dallas-based AAFES has chosen Anderson Merchandisers to handle music and DVDs, and Eurpac for video games.

According to sources, AAFES public affairs officer Judd Anstey confirms a "contract has been awarded, and we are in the process of transitioning, with an expected completion date in April."

Sources said that AAFES estimated the music and video contract as worth $675 million in business over the next three years, while the video games contract as worth $225 million. But Anstey said that annually, the music business will do about $34 million; with video at $180 million; and video games at $70 million.

AAFES purchases of physical music has been on the decline since the turn of the decade because the digital download appeals to the modern armed forces who are comprised mainly 18-30 year-old men. That demo is not only very digitally engaged but need the portability that the download provides as they move about the world to fulfill assignments, according to industry executives.

This marks the first time in recent memory that AAFES has turned to outside suppliers for entertainment software, unlike the Navy and Marines, which have long been supplied by Eurpac or Softland.

Anstey says that the AAFES buyers would continue to make the actual selection decisions for buys, while leaving Anderson and Eurpac to then make the actual purchases from vendors and provide distribution services. In another first, Anderson Merchandisers is believed to have previously serviced one sole customer, Wal-Mart, so their vying for and winning the AAFES account may hint at a shift in strategy for the Amarillo-Texas-based wholesaler.

At the very least, picking up the AAFES account gets, or should get, Anderson Merchandisers back into the business of buying video. It used to provide that service to Wal-Mart, but then the big video labels decided to sell that account direct, which ended Anderson's involvement in that product category. Since then, Anderson Merchandisers only involvement in that category for most of this decade has been supplying video labels with Wal-Mart store detailing services, such as taking inventories and upstocking shelves. Anderson Merchandisers decline comment while Virginia Beach, Va.-based Eurpac didn't return calls for comment.