GIANT ANGLES TO BOOST SAME-STORE SALES

LANDOVER, Md. (FNS) -- Executives at Giant Food here "are not pleased" with the chain's flat first-half same-store sales but expect increased promotions and a Mid-Atlantic economic turnaround to rekindle business, Pete Manos, president and chief executive officer, told shareholders at the company's annual meeting.Giant also announced at the meeting that Manos has added the title of chairman of the

LANDOVER, Md. (FNS) -- Executives at Giant Food here "are not pleased" with the chain's flat first-half same-store sales but expect increased promotions and a Mid-Atlantic economic turnaround to rekindle business, Pete Manos, president and chief executive officer, told shareholders at the company's annual meeting.

Giant also announced at the meeting that Manos has added the title of chairman of the board. Israel Cohen, Giant's previous chairman, died last November.

"While we have heard there has been an overall softness among all retailers in the area -- in fact, up and down the Northeast corridor -- we cannot and will not allow our business, particularly our same-store sales, to remain as sluggish as they have been," Manos said.

For the second quarter and half ended Aug. 10, same-store sales would only have risen 0.7% and 0.4%, respectively, excluding the effects of the soft economy and some cannibalization by several new stores, Giant reported. Same-store sales for last year's second quarter were up 1.7%, down from 2.6% in the prior quarter.

"We have every expectation that with the Olympics over, school back in session and families returning from [summer and Labor Day] vacation, that normal patterns of business and growth will return," Manos said.

Giant's slow same-store growth is occurring as the 166-unit chain -- whose stores are concentrated in the Washington and Baltimore areas -- expands up the East Coast, with new stores in Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. In the past year, Giant has opened nine stores, including four Super G units, in New Jersey. In the next six months, it plans three more units in New Jersey and one each in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Manos told SN that Giant has responded to sharpened competition in the Washington market, which has seen the entry of Fresh Fields and Bread & Circus, by stepping up promotions. Efforts include a locally grown produce campaign with broadcast, print and in-store ads; more event marketing; broadening consumer acceptance of the Super G Visa credit-card program, which has signed up about 60,000 accounts; and pitching gourmet offerings.

Giant also has made several other executive moves. Alvin Dobbin, formerly senior vice president of operations, was named executive vice president and chief operating officer, a new position. David W. Rutstein, senior vice president and general counsel, has added the new title of chief administrative officer.