CARLISLE, Pa. -- Giant Food Stores here got the jump on its competition this month, when it launched its first annual "gi-CAN-tic" canned goods sales event Jan. 3.
The promotion was launched a few days before ShopRite stores' heavily promoted 29th annual "CAN CAN" sale, which began Jan. 7. Giant, a division of Ahold USA, ran its three-week event in all 154 stores in the six states it serves, under the Giant, Edwards Super Food Stores and Martin's banners. ShopRite's promotion also concluded at the end of last week.
Dennis Hopkins, vice president of marketing, public relations and consumer affairs for Giant, said "ShopRite has traditionally run CAN CAN in all the markets they do business in. We compete with them very directly in New Jersey and more and more in New York. So after many years of running up against this very successful event, we launched our own, which we are calling gi-CAN-tic."
He characterized the first week as "very successful." The majority of the items advertised in the circulars had case prices, and several items had limits, because they were being sold below cost, Hopkins said. ShopRite's sale had no limits, and encouraged multiple-case purchases.
"We're very pleased with the success it had in New York and New Jersey, the Edwards division," Hopkins said. The Giant division was harder to analyze, he said, due to snowy weather in Pennsylvania during the first week of January. As for next year, Hopkins said, the results would be assessed. "We would certainly look at it as a vehicle to drive sales again. "The whole industry had great back-to-back weeks at Christmas and New Year's, and then we asked our stores to undertake this. It was a lot of work and we are very pleased," the spokesman said.
There are about 190 ShopRites, most independently owned, in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware. There are 58 Edwards Super Food Stores in New Jersey and New York.
Edwards' Long Island circular for Jan. 3 to 9 featured canned goods all over its front page, including Coca-Cola 12-packs at six for $10, Savarin Reserve Blend Coffee at 99 cents each or a case of 24 for $23, with a limit, and Bertolli Classico Olive Oil, a 101-ounce tin, for $6.99.
ShopRite stores quickly countered with the same brand and size tin of olive oil at a dollar less, $5.99, in Jan. 7 ads that previewed "CAN CAN '99." Television and radio advertising broke Jan. 6.
"That's less than our cost [on the olive oil]," said a store-level ShopRite source, who complained about the competition. "They couldn't even come up with something original."
Both chains continued their sales the next week, offering close or identical deals on some items, such as Tuttorosso tomatoes and Alpo dog food.
Laura McCafferty, spokeswoman for Wakefern Food Corp., Elizabeth, N.J., the wholesale cooperative that supplies ShopRite stores, said the CAN CAN program was born in January 1970 to offset the traditionally low grocery sales that occur in that month, following the holidays.
"Our grocery guys were looking for some exciting way to bring customers into the stores. As for Edwards, I don't know what there is to say about that," said McCafferty. She added that Pathmark had tried a similar strategy in the past. No one from Pathmark headquarters returned SN's calls for comment last week.
Pathmark held an "Extra Savings for the New Year" event this month, distributing "four weeks of smart values" coupons for 18 Center Store products, not all of them canned. Waldbaum's, too, urged customers to "Stock up and save during our dollar days sale!" Jan. 10 to 16, but those specials were on general-merchandise items.
Jan. 13, SN visited one ShopRite on Long Island and an Edwards Super Food Store about 3 miles away. Both were quiet at midmorning, but livelier in the evening. Both stores had posters on their windows advertising the sale, but ShopRite's were more plentiful, including "UN-Canny" specials on fresh or otherwise noncanned items. The Edwards unit had four signs, in addition to a huge green "Double Coupons" banner.