Giant still dominant grocery

But it lost market share in area to Safeway, Shoppers, survey says

June 27, 2008|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,Sun Reporter

Giant Food managed to hang on to its position as the Baltimore area's largest grocery chain, but it continued to lose market share as competition increased, according to an annual survey by the trade publication Food World.

Giant's share of the market slipped to 27.48 percent in the 12 months ended March 31, from 29.42 percent in the previous 12 months, according to the publication. Its 40 area stores brought in $1.26 billion in sales, down from $1.33 billion but still substantially more than the $738.9 million posted by No. 2 Safeway and $576.8 million by No. 3 Shoppers Food and Pharmacy.

Both Safeway and Shoppers, however, gained market share.

Giant has struggled in recent years to maintain its dominance in the area. It has posted several quarters of lower sales and has been slow to upgrade stores. At the same time, it has faced steep competition from discounters such as Wal-Mart and Target as well as from upscale grocers such as Wegmans and Whole Foods Inc.

Food World publisher Jeffrey Metzger wasn't available for comment yesterday, but in a column on Food World's Web site, he blamed Giant's decline on its purchase by Dutch grocery conglomerate Royal Ahold a decade ago.

"Since Ahold acquired Giant in 1998, the wheels have continued to come off the cart, and what was once one of this country's finest supermarketing organizations has become a company that's a bumblin', fumblin', stumblin' train wreck," Metzger wrote.

A summary of the survey also posted on the Web site said that Giant is still beset by outdated stores and low employee morale.

Giant spokesman Jamie Miller said that the grocery chain has several initiatives to improve stores and attract customers, including a price lowering plan it began in 2006 and a store remodeling plan. Giant will unveil six remodeled stores today, including one on York Road near the city-county line and another on Baltimore National Pike in Catonsville.

The new stores include a Starbucks and expanded sections for organic and prepared food. The grocery chain also recently hired Robin Michel, a grocery veteran and native of the Baltimore area, to help turn the grocery chain around. Michel joined Giant from Roundy's supermarket chain in Milwaukee.

"Our strategy is to continue to improve our store base and meet shoppers' needs," Miller said. "We think that our strategy has proven to be successful and we hope ... to increase market share."

A spokesman for Safeway said that chain gained market share by upgrading its stores with a new "lifestyle" concept that included dimmer lighting, more organic foods and more prepared foods.

"Customers notice and appreciate the difference, and I think that's helped us differentiate ourselves in the marketplace," said spokesman Greg TenEyck.

Market share

Giant/Landover...27.48 percent

Safeway ...16.09 percent

Shoppers...12.56 percent

SuperFresh/A&P...7.46 percent

Weis Markets...5.94 percent

Food Lion/Bloom...5.80 percent

Mars...5.07 percent

Klein's...2.34 percent

B. Green Corp. ...2.19 percent

Shurfine/Shursave...1.94 percent

Source: Food World

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