Annual sales of Giant Food Inc. were incorrect in a story of May 10 in the Business & Finance Section because of a typographical error. The correct figure for the year ended in February is $1.08 billion.
Giant Food Inc. has rolled back prices on hundreds of grocery items after discovering it was earning more than allowed under President Carter's anti-inflation profit guidelines.
According to Giant, the rollback occurred in early April but was revealed only yesterday by the Council on Wage and Price Stability, which cited its appreciation for the reductions.
The rollback coincided with a COWPS survey of eight of the nation's leading food chains showing that only Giant had exceeded the guidelines during the first six months of the Carter program.
In a related action, the council named Denver-based Ideal Basic Industries Inc. as being in violation of Carter's guidelines-the first time a company has been definitely identified for exceeding the standards.
The council claimed that Ideal's cement division, a major producer of concrete, had raised prices in the past six months beyond the limits of the anti-inflation guidelines.
Ideal's president, John Love-former GOP governor of Colorado and once the U.S. government's top energy official-said in a statement he "strongly disagreed" with the finding and declared his company would ask for a reconsideration.
The Ideal case marked the farthest the government has gone in its effort to spotlight publicly those firms which are not goind along with the voluntary standards. Last month the council released a list of companies which it said were probably not complying with the standards.
Anxious not to appear out-of-line with the White House program, a number of companies have adjusted prices to suit it. David Sykes, Gianths senior vice president, emphasized in an interview that his company's rollback had been entirely voluntary, the result of the firm's own monitoring effort. Sykes said the Washington based chain had never considered itself out of compliance with Carter's anti-inflation plan, though it had found its profits growing faster than expected.
"We saw our gross margins goint at a little faster clip than expected," he said, attributing the spurt to changes in consume buying habits and the weather. "If allowed to continue, we knew we would be over (the guidelines)."
A COWPS spokesman said that Giant was asked in mid-April to report its gross margins for the preceding six months and, shortly afterward, told the council in a letter that it had cut back prices on about 300 store items.
Sykes declined to cite specific reductions, stating, "I don't think anyone can give you exact figures because they're always changing." He said the cutbacks were "principally in dry and frozen goods" rather than in mear or produce items.
Sykes also declined to disclose what Giant's gross margins had been last year or are currently, and the wageprice council does not reveal this informations, calling it proprietary. But based on Giant's most recent annual report, its gross margin (this is gross profit divided by sales) can be figured as 25 percent for both 1976 and 1977.
Giant is the nation's 17th largest grocery chain, with 117 stores in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. It reported sales of $1.81 billion for the year ended in February, up 25 percent over the year before. Earnings were $17.0 million, up 16 percent.
The Carter guidelines ask companies to limit price increases to half a percentage point less than the average increases in 1976 and 1977. Companies faced with "uncontrollable costs" - typically, those in retailing, wholesaling and food processing - may with special permission use an alternate gross margin standard holds increases to the average of recent past trends.
Ideal, objecting to being tagged a violator, charged that the government's method of figuring compliance is not fair. The company said the council based its decision on quarterly sales data which is "unrealistic" for companies such as Ideal which historically have announced annual price changes in the fall to become effective the following year.
Ideal is the 478th largest firm on Fortune's list of 500. The company's sales last year were $410 million, up 19 percent over the year before. Earnings were $54.4 million, up 25 percent.
As a result of being listed as a noncomplier, Ideal will be barred from receiving government contracts. Harry Lazier, a company spokesman, said yesterday he did not know whether Ideal did any business with the government and could not locate anyone who knew.
The government's ability to withhold contracts from a company found not complying with the guidelines is being chanllenged in federal court by labor unions who say such action is unconstitutional.
In related news, White House spokesman Jody Powell said yesterday that Carter still expects unions to adhere to his wage guidelines despite a more pessimistic inflation forecast by some in the administration.