The biggest supermarket and department store chains in the Washington area yesterday reported sharp increases in both sales and profits for the third quarter of 1979, indicating that local retail trade is flourishing despite the recession.

Giant Food Inc. posted a 27 percent increase in profits and reported that sales for the latest three-month period were continuing to run 15 percent ahead of a year ago.

Woodward & Lothrop reported a 32 percent jump in profits and said a soft sales trend shown earlier in the year has ended.Third-quarter volume was up more than 15 percent.

Improved sales and profits were also reported yesterday by M. S. Ginn, the largest office supply dealer in Washington and by Pubco, a major printing company. Lower earnings were posted by Owens, Minor & Bodeker, a Richmond medical supply firm, and by Federal Real Estate Investment Trust.

Woodward & Lothrop reported its profits for the three months ended Nov. 3 increased to $2,815,000 ($1.15 a share) from $2,129,000 (88 cents) a year ago. Sales for the third quarter jumped to $74.7 million from $64.7 million, bringing total volume so far this year to $200 million, up from $178 million in the same period a year ago.

Because of soft sales and poor profits in the first half of the year, Woodward & Lothrop's net for the nine months of $4.88 million ( $2) is still behind the $5.51 million ($2.23) a year ago.

Woodies Chairman Edwin K. Hoffman said "the weak sales encountered in the spring and summer turned stronger in the third quarter. Sales have continued strong in the first three weeks of November."

The $10 million surge in sales "substantially helped increase profits," Hoffman added, cautioning that "inflation as well as the continued threat of a recession and its impact on consumer spending is still of great concern to us."

Giant Food reported earnings of $3,524,000 (71 cents a share) for the quarter, up from $2,763,000 (55 cents) as sales climbed to $282 million from $245 million.

For the first 36 weeks of the year, Giant sales are up more than 14 percent to $824 million from $720 million, and net income is up 26 percent, to $11.3 million ($2.28) from $9 million ($1.81.)

In a statement issued with the earnings report, a Giant source noted that profits for the supermarket chain increased despite a decision in mid-October to slash prices on a wide range of items to compete with no-frills food store.

M. S. Ginn posted sales of $12.28 million for the three months ended Sept. 30, up from $10.09 million in the same period a year ago. Profit increase did not match the sales gain, as earnings went to $202,000 (28 cents a share) from $196,000 (27 cents).

Ginn also announced that the Hillman Companies of Pittsburgh will pay the equivalent of $12.25 per share for Ginn stock in a previously negotiated Takeover. After taxes and expenses, public shareholders will receive about $11.09 a share for their stock.

Pubco, a national commerical printing chain that owns Merkle Press and Byron S. Adams Printing in the Washington area, reported nine-month net income increased to $682,000 (23 cents a share) from $604,000 (21 cents).

Pubco's sales increased to $40.1 million for $38.4 million for the first three quarters of the year.

Owners, Minor & Bodeker of Richmond reported its sales for the second quarter ending Sept. 30 increased to $32.2 million from $27.5 million, but earnings fell to $454,000 (64 cents) from $490,000 (70 cents). The previous year's earnings included $60,000 from sale of land, which added about 8 cents a share to profits.

Federal Realty Investment Trust showed increased revenue -- from $5.8 million to $6.5 million -- for the first nine months of the year, but lower profits. Earnings fell to $795,000 (54 cents) from $1,176,000 (82 cents); most of the drop in income was due to increased depreciation allowances, the company said.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. reported its common stock earnings for the first 10 months of the year increased to $97.4 million ($3.11) from $93.7 million ($3.04). Sales of the Maryland utility increased to $841 million from $810 million.

Electrical sales for the 10-month period were 4.2 percent greater than a year ago and gas sales were up 11.5 percent.

Baltimore Gas said about 5 cents per share of the increase in earnings was due to new seasonal rates put into effect this year, which tend to increase the company's earnings during the summer months.