Giant Food remains by far the largest supermarket in the region, although its market share has slipped slightly, according to Food World, a Baltimore trade publication.

Consumers spent $8.2 billion at the region's top 10 supermarkets in 2004, 6 percent more than they did in 2003, Food World found in its annual survey. Giant's sales were up slightly to $3.5 billion, but its slice of the total pie dipped to 42.11 percent from 42.17 percent.

Safeway was second with $2.1 billion in sales. Its share of the local grocery market rose to 26.02 percent from 24.89 percent.

No. 3 Shoppers Food Warehouse had sales of $1 billion and its market share rose slightly.

Jeff Metzger, Food World's publisher, blames Giant's troubles on a cost-cutting campaign that left the chain with fewer employees and longer lines at checkout.

Barry F. Scher, a Giant spokesman, said the company has "recognized areas where we need improvement." Giant, which is owned by Royal Ahold NV, a Dutch grocery company, is bringing back baggers to quicken the checkout process, replacing old cash registers and installing scanners in the grocery aisles to allow shoppers to check product prices.

Food Lion and Whole Foods had slight increases in market shares, while Wegmans' single Washington area store in Sterling has made it the region's seventh-largest supermarket presence. Wegmans' sales of $114 million beat out Harris Teeter, Weis Markets and SuperFresh, each of which have six stores in the region.

-- Michael Barbaro