Giant Food Powers Through Pandemic to Open New Store

Giant Food Fairfax, Va.
Giant Food opened its newest store, in Fairfax, Va., on Friday, Aug. 22.

After a several-month delay related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Giant Food opened a new 53,000-square-foot store in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Fairfax, Virginia, that reflects the company’s latest merchandising approach and foodservice modifications.

The Landover, Maryland-based operator of 164 stores overcame challenges related to a unique store location that were compounded by the impact of COVID-19-related restrictions in the prepared food area. The location is a little on the small side compared withsome of Giant’s other recent openings, which are upwards of 65,000 square feet, but that doesn’t mean that the retailer skimped on the departments that matter most to shoppers.

“Our newest store is a little bit of a unique format for us in the sense that it is smaller than what we would typically build from the ground up, because it is on a unique site,” said Gary Budd, Giant Food’s director of strategic planning and execution. “Even with the smaller square footage, we were able to get our prototype offering on the perishable side of the business.”

For example, the store includes an expanded prepared food, meat and seafood service counters, a larger natural and organic department and selection, a fresh-cut fruit station and juice bar, a full-service Starbucks with café seating, a beer and wine shop, and a full-service floral shop.

“We’ve been able to accommodate all of the same perishable offerings as in all of our larger stores,” Budd said. “Where we will sacrifice a little bit would be on the nonperishable side.”

Adjustments did have to be made in the prepared food and deli areas to accommodate local restrictions, something all retailers have adjusted to in the COVID-19 era. For Giant, it basically meant restricting access to key departments such as salad bars and hot food areas, and developing innovative solutions so shoppers could continue to purchase products.

“We have not reopened our salad bars, but we have modified them to accommodate our offers. We’ve taken a similar approach with our hot food offering. We brought in a temporary hot plate that sits over our self-service hot bars, so what we do now is package those products and offer them for grab and go,” Budd said.

The reason that the new Fairfax location is smaller than most other recently opened stores is because Giant found a desirable in-fill location in a market where it has operated since 1954. The move speaks to the company’s flexible approach to real estate, which serves it well in the densely populated northeastern markets where it operates.

“We are open and listening to every opportunity that is out there in our marketplace,” Budd said.

The new Fairfax location is the third store that Giant has opened this year, with one more location planned for later in the year. That’s a fairly typical year, Budd explained, adding that between two and five locations are planned for next year, along with another 12 to 20 store remodels. As those new stores open and remodels are completed, they will be in the format similar to the Fairfax location, which places a greater emphasis on fresh and service departments.

The company’s efforts in that regard were bolstered earlier this year with a 95,000-square-foot expansion to Giant's distribution center. Budd said that the additional capacity at the retailer's single distribution facility has made perishable replenishment much more efficient.

That’s a good thing, considering Giant’s emphasis on fresh product, recent COVID-19-induced supply-chain disruptions, and the grocer's growing click-and-collect business.

“By the end of this year, we will be able to provide Giant Pickup from about 140 of our 164 stores,” Budd said.

Check out Giant's newest store below...

Key departments where Giant seeks to differentiate itself from competitors are clearly signed.
Protective screens that have become the new normal of the modern store experience are in place at Giant's newest store.
The store experience at Giant's Fairfax location also includes a Starbucks with seating.
Produce is major area of emphasis for Giant, and its efforts there have been aided by new distribution capacity.
An extensive offering of cheeses complements the perimeter experience at Giant's newest location.
A full-service bakery is another key element of Giant's approach to differentiaton.
Giant will offer pickup service at 140 of its 164 stores by year end.
Giant uses specialized carts for the picking of orders and has a dedicated space for processing.

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