Giant Food Inc., aiming to beautify its already-healthy regional market share, has announced that it is cutting 10 percent to 40 percent off the prices of beauty and health products.
The move could be a bitter pill for Giant's rivals, especially the aggressive, discount drugstore chains who are the direct target of the discounts. Barry F. Scher, a Giant spokesman, said the program, announced Sunday in full-page newspaper ads, applies to about 4,000 items typically sold in drugstores, including hosiery, non-prescription drugs and greeting cards.
Mr. Scher said that the program, now in place at all of the Landover-based chain's 153 stores, had been tested successfully at 25 stores outside the Baltimore-Washington area, the core of Giant's market.
No time limit for the program was announced, and Mr. Scher said that if it works it could become a fixture of the chain's marketing strategy.
Jeff Metzger, publisher of the regional trade journal Food World, said that Giant's program is a response to a number of factors, including a flat retail market over the past 6 to 8 weeks and the growth of new competitors from outside the traditional grocery business. He named discount drug chains, warehouse "clubs" and the new Leedmark "hypermart" in Glen Burnie.
Mr. Metzger said that he could not predict whether the move could be the first salvo in a price war, but he added, "I would expect a response from its competitors."
Jim Roberts, a spokesman for the Eastern region of Safeway, Giant's largest competitor, said yesterday evening that he was not aware of the Giant program but that "obviously we have to stay competitive."
Mr. Metzger said that the move was typical of Giant's "aggressive" approach to maintaining its leading market share, which already stands at 29 percent for the Baltimore area and 39 percent for the Baltimore-Washington region. "They do as much as possible to control their own destiny."