Despite the early retirement of "Price and Pride," the return of trading stamps and the introduction of "no-frills" foods, the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co. is losing money.

A&P reported yesterday it lost $6.88 million in the three months ended Aug. 16, and was in the red by a total of $16.8 million for the first half of the fiscal year.

A year ago, A&P made a tiny $271,000 profit for the second quarter and earned $5.7 million (23 cents a share) in the first six months.

A&P's first half sales increased by about $50 million, from $1.82 billion to $1.87 billion. Company officials said sales were aided by the return of trading stamps and the introduction of "no-frills" foods.

After ending its "price and pride" advertising campaign, A&P began giving trade stamps in about 150 of its supermarkets in August. The company now gives S&H Green Stamps, Gold Bond Stamps or Plaid Stamps in about 450 stores.

The stamp program is "going well," a spokesman said yesterday. "We had to have a volume increase to pay for the stamps. We're getting the volume."

He said the company also has expanded the "no-frills" foods program introduced earlier this summer. About 1,000 of the 1,845 A&P stores now carry the "no frills" items in their plan white packages with simple block lettering.

Priced below both national brands and the company's own private label goods, the white label products are cheaper because they are of lower quality and save the cost of fancy labels and advertising, A&P said.

The A&P claim was disputed at last week's annual meeting of Giant Food, one of A&P's major competitors in the Washington-Baltimore area. A Giant executive said the savings on labels is "insignificant" and claimed more money is being spent promoting the "no-name" products than is usually spent on house brands.

A&P said it has expanded the "no-name" project from 14 items to 32 and will add more items and more stores if the program continues to show promise.

A&P, however, is continuing to shut down smaller, unprofitable stores. The chain now operates about 85 fewer stores than it had a year ago, well below the 3,000 units in business four years earlier.

The second-half losses include a provision for $3.89 million for closing additional stores during the second half of this year. The $16.8 million loss came after a tax credit of $2.4 million resulting from earlier losses. Also included in the red ink was an adjustment of $2.71 million for capitalizing leases, as required by recent changes in accounting rules.