retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Baltimore Sun has a story suggesting that Ahold-owned Giant of Landover is making strides after years of apparent decline related to consolidation of many of its operations with Stop & Shop’s in Massachusetts, plus heightened competition from Wegmans, Whole Foods, Harris Teeter and others.

According to the story, customers seem to be noticing that there is a better selection (especially in organics), brighter lighting, and wider aisles…not to mention self-scanning technology that allows people to scan their items as they place them in their shopping carts. There is still some dissatisfaction with prices – Wegmans is perceived as having lower prices on most things – but shoppers are being lured back.

KC's View:
First of all, there doesn’t seem to be much question that Giant is getting better … especially compared to an operation that the Sun describes as having “lost some of what had made it popular, such as good service and personal relationships between customers and employees.” For a lot of people I know in the DC market, Giant’s decline was related to the fact that it no longer seemed to be a local chain…but perhaps it has been so long since Giant had that reputation that it no longer has to live up to those expectations.

(The other thing that mystifies these same DC shoppers is that Safeway hasn’t managed to make more of Giant’s decline…but that may speak to the plethora competition more than it does to the quality of Safeway’s stores.)

Giant also no doubt is benefitting from the fact that more people are eating at home, and the recession has people shopping locally more often rather than making destination shopping trips to other stores. The key will be how the company does what Walmart keeps talking about – creating stores that will retain the customer base as the recession recedes, which it will do. Eventually.