Key developments: Two rounds of price reductions, extension of fuel incentives, opened energy-efficient store.
What's next: More expansion in core markets and contiguous areas.
David Shapira has Giant Eagle quietly strengthening the chain's market position in its various market areas. The company's competitors in grocery and fuel, however, may see the moves as anything but quiet.
While the past year did not see the kind of giant leaps forward as in the past, with the chain entering new markets like Columbus, Ohio, and launching new initiatives like its gas/convenience stores, the list of its accomplishments is still impressive:
- Two rounds of price reductions aimed at discount operators already in its markets now selling food, and pre-empting the impact of Wal-Mart Supercenters in areas like Cleveland, where the big stores have yet to arrive.
- The introduction of the opening price point Valu Time product line.
- An extension of one of the industry's most aggressive fuel incentive programs -- 10 cents off a gallon for every $50 spent in the store -- raising a legal challenge from Pittsburgh-area gas dealers, and increasing traffic in stores.
- Two significant new stores: an environmentally friendly store in Brunswick, Ohio, which was the nation's first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified supermarket; and a new Giant Eagle prototype in Seven Hills, Pa.
- Recognition by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with its first-ever Freedom to Compete Award.
"David Shapira is very typical of the chain," said Neil Stern, partner, McMillan/Doolittle, Chicago. "He and they are the quietest leader in the industry. I don't think they seek out the press, yet when you go through the list of what they are doing and what they have done, it stacks up well against any of the major chains in the business. That is clearly being done under his leadership."
Giant Eagle has 220 supermarket sites; 140 are corporately owned. Two new stores and seven remodels were completed in the last year. There are 71 GetGo gas and convenience locations; 12 were added in the last year.
Giant Eagle has received two national environmental awards: the LEED honor for the Brunswick store and the Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star Partner of the Year award for the second consecutive year.
The fuelperks! program has gained customers for the retailer, but the chain's price-reduction efforts will probably be more significant long term, Stern said.
"They are going through a huge transition from a pricing standpoint," Stern said. "Transitioning from a high-low environment to an EDLP [everyday low pricing] environment is maybe the single most difficult thing a retailer can do."