Giant to Cut Staff in Seafood, Floral Sections

By Ylan Q. Mui
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Giant Food is cutting staff in the seafood and floral departments at more than 50 grocery stores and converting the operations to self-service in an effort to improve efficiency, a company spokesman said.

Giant operates about 190 stores from Virginia to Delaware. The cutbacks will affect 55 seafood counters and 62 floral departments at low-volume stores, Giant spokesman Barry Scher said. The number of employees affected was not clear, though a representative for the workers' union said about one or two people work in each department.

Scher said the percentage of customers who are buying seafood has declined, though he did not give specific numbers. He said the changes began last month and should be completed by late spring.

"These conversions will allow us to aggressively focus on efficiencies in our operations," Scher said.

Harry A. Manley Jr., service director for United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 27, which includes Giant employees in the Baltimore area, said he had heard complaints from shoppers and workers. He said affected workers were being transferred to other stores, a few as far as two hours away.

"We understand the economics of it," Manley said. "We just don't think it's the right way to go."

Giant has been working to reduce its operating costs and boost profitability in light of poor sales performance since it was bought in 1998 by Royal Ahold of Amsterdam. Yet as it cuts back in the seafood and floral departments at low-volume stores, it has amped up service at its new Super Giant locations, outfitting them with music, books and elaborate seafood, meat and deli counters.

Another chain, Safeway, announced yesterday that it would install red DVD rental kiosks in 50 stores in the region. The kiosks will stock more than 100 movie titles, with new releases added each Tuesday. The cost will be $1.49 the first night and 99 cents each additional night.

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