Monday, August 31, 2009

Grand Opening of the new Giant/Weis

This is a big deal in our area, the sale of a 75 year old family owned chain to Pennsylvania chain Weis.  Today was the grand reopening although Weis took over the stores as of several days ago.

It's an interesting changeover.  The old Giant (not to be confused with Giant Eagle) was noted for low prices, no gimmicks, not for its selection, the freshness of its food, or its cleanliness. My observations at the Rano Boulevard store (which at one time was a ShopRite until it closed in January of 1987 and Giant took the building over):

1.  The store was a LOT cleaner.  The first thing I noticed upon entering was a fresh clean smell.
2.  Better lighting
3.  A lot of takeover bugs still have to be worked out.  The deli, in particular, had troubles operating.
4.  Customer Service?  There is a full service deli now (Giant wasn't noted for that either) but with 6 people at the deli, and us the only customers at the counter, no one seemed to want to interrupt their conversations to help us.  We finally got someone's attention and we did get our order filled.
5.  At checkout we had a very good experience but I had a strong feeling that the crispily dressed cashier, and the young man bagging (also very well dressed), were not from this area.  Just an impression from body language.   I do know that many times in this type of situation (i.e. a new store) a chain will import experienced employees to help the process along.  I think this is what happened here.  This same gentleman had greeted us as we entered the store-I had almost thought he was the store manager just in his carriage - again, body language.
6.  Some prices (although there were a number of very good opening sales) were up.  As I had mentioned in a prevous entry, this is going to be an important concern - a number of the stores are located in low income areas (the one we went to was not).  However, breakfast cereal seemed to be very reasonable.  They also had a good price on rotisserie chickens.

The changeover in some ways isn't complete: there were a lot of gaps in shelves with little signs announcing more stock was to follow.

Because of Giant's reputation with meat and poultry, I am not buying the grand opening meat specials until friends or co-workers report good experiences.

So, this takeover seems to be a mixed bag:  this chain will be taken (or, maybe, dragged) into the modern age but the price to pay may well be much higher prices for some staples people depend on.

Again, I hope Weis is sensitive to pricing of staples.

Incidentally, I am told that the Akels (the family that owned the Giant) still, apparently, own some of the buildings - so they still aren't completely out of the business.

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