Giant Food Inc. is planning to test a new technology that will electronically post grocery prices on thousands of miniature shelf-scoreboards throughout the store.
The system's manufacturer, Toronto-based Telepanel Systems Inc., said yesterday that the Landover-based grocery store chain had placed an order with International Business Machines Corp. to install an electronic shelf-pricing system in one of Giant's 156 stores. Telepanel, which distributes its system through IBM, declined to reveal the dollar value of the order.
Barry Scher, a Giant spokesman, confirmed that Giant would try out the system, but said he did not know which Giant store would conduct the test, apparently the first of its kind in the Washington-Baltimore region.
Garth Aasen, Telepanel's vice president of sales and marketing, said the electronic display system would be tied into the grocery store's bar code reading system, meaning any change in the coded price for an item would automatically be displayed with the product.
Mr. Aasen said the wireless system would operate through radio waves. The portable pricing panels, each 1 3/4 inches by 3 1/2 inches, would display both the item price and unit price and could also carry a promotional message, he said.
"Giant is a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate the integration of electronic shelf labels with IBM's other in-store retail technology for a leading customer of IBM," Mr. Aasen said.
One benefit of the electronic system, Mr. Aasen said, was that it virtually eliminated discrepancies between the price displayed on the shelf and the price rung up at the register.
Mr. Scher said, however, that was not the main attraction for Giant, which claims a 99.9 percent accuracy rate in its pricing now. But he said such a system, if it worked, could afford significant savings, especially in labor costs.
Jeff Metzger, publisher of the Columbia-based trade journal Food World, said Giant now makes its price changes when the stores are closed. Prices were sent to each store electronically, he said, but the shelf price labels must be printed out and physically posted under the product.
Mr. Aasen said the Telepanel system was being used by stores in Canada and Germany and would soon be installed in several retail chains in Connecticut.