It's not news really for anyone who knows the supermarket game in Washington. According to the annual local market share survey of the retail grocery business released today, the big are even bigger and the small are getting smaller.

As expected, the huge Giant and Safeway chains continue to dominate the Washington region, with consumers spending close to 80 cents of every grocery dollar at one of the food giants, according to Food World, a Columbia, Md.-based monthly publication that tracks the supermarket industry in the Washington area.

The figures, released every June, represent business over the period of May 1, 1989, to April 30, 1990. The top 10, in descending order, were Giant, Safeway, Shoppers Food Warehouse, Basics, Super Fresh/A&P, Magruder's, Weis, Fresh Value, Bonus and Dayton/Mitchell Thriftways.

This year's survey is different from last year's, however, since the Department of Commerce expanded the greater Washington market to encompass three more counties in Maryland and Virginia -- Calvert, Frederick and Stafford. The expansion dilutes some of last year's figures, since most of the stores do not have as large a presence in those outer counties. For comparative purposes, Food World provided figures for both the old and new survey areas.

Giant, which is based in Landover and has 105 stores, all in the survey area, raised its market share by less than 1 percent, to 46.78 percent from 45.96 percent (48.75 percent from 48.01 percent using last year's survey area). Sales rose to $2.24 billion from $2.09 billion. Giant opened two stores during the survey period.

Oakland, Calif.-based Safeway, which has 106 Washington-area stores (down from 108 last year), seemed to fall off using the new method, to 30.88 percent from 31.02 percent, mostly because Safeway has little presence in the new areas counted. But the old figures show Safeway gaining slightly, to 31.61 percent from 30.98 percent. Sales also rose to $1.48 billion from $1.43 billion.

The third-ranked player, Shoppers Food Warehouse of Landover, captured an 8.49 percent share, up from 7.68 percent (or 8.73 percent from 8.1 percent, using old methods). Sales gained strongly, as one store was added in the time period, to $407 million from $344.6 million.

Mostly everyone else in the Top 10 lost market share, except for minimal gains by Basics, Weis and Bonus.

Total retail grocery sales were up to $4.79 billion from $4.48 billion. The Food World study noted that some profits from increased share in the market were offset by price inflation, fueled in part by increased costs from a new labor contract signed in the fall by the bigger stores, some of which was passed on to consumers.

The strong dominance of Giant and Safeway here is unusual for the industry nationwide, especially Giant's tremendous share. "And the fact that they have been able to raise their share even a little bit ... after passing 40 percent is incredible," said Jeffrey Metzger, publisher of Food World, a division of Best-Met Publishing Co. "Giant is still untouchable."

But Shoppers Food Warehouse's strides are important too, noted Metzger, especially in light of at least a half-dozen bigger new stores planned in the next two years. "With their expansion into the new suburbs with better stores, they are poised to be a big player," said Metzger. "Though there is that huge gap with the top two, Shoppers has made itself a leader in the discount price niche and could make inroads into the market share of the two bigger ones."

Still, it will be difficult.

"It takes skills and a lot of money to beat Giant and Safeway, pure and simple," said Ken Gassman, analyst for Wheat, First Securities Inc. in Richmond. "Operators like Shoppers have planned for and executed a plan to gain and it's working so far, but anyone who is not top-notch will suffer."

THE TEN LARGEST GROCERY CHAINS IN THE WASHINGTON REGION

CHAIN.....................RANK........1990 STORES.....1990 SALES

.....................................................IN MILLIONS

GIANT FOOD................1.............105.............$2,242.5

SAFEWAY STORES.............2............106............. 1,480.2

SHOPPERS FOOD WAREHOUSE....3............19................ 407.0

BASICS.....................4.............14............... 182.5

SUPER-FRESH/A&P............5.............20............... 178.4

MAGRUDERS..................6.............12............... 144.9

WEIS.......................7.............7................ 72.5

FRESH VALUE................8.............4................ 33.7

BONUS......................9.............3................ 24.4

DAYTON/MITCHELL THRIFTWAYS.10............3................ 21.7

TOTAL...................................293..............$4,787.8