Giant Eagle is one of those success stories which has exploded in the 20th century, and it looks as if they are going to go on to do even better in the 21st century as they dream up and develop even more innovations for their company. While anyone living in Maryland, West Virginia, or Ohio among some parts of America will know the brand and have shopped there, what about the rest of the country? Here are 20 things you might not know about Giant Eagle.
1. Early History
Giant Eagle was first founded in 1918, by three families - Goldstein, Porter, and Chait. They formed a company called “Eagle Grocery.” The business became a success, and by 1928 there were 125 stores established. In 1928, the families sold Eagle Grocery to the Kroger Company. As part of their arrangement with Kroger, the families kept out of the grocery business for three years.
But this was by no means the end of the story. Two other families - the Moravitz and Weizenbaum families - had been in the process of building their own grocery company named “OK Grocery.” In 1931, the three original families joined with the new ones, and they formed the Giant Eagle chain with the first store opening in 1936, on Brownsville Road.
Despite the problems faced by the business in the 30s and the 40s with the Great Depression and the Second World War, the chain began to grow steadily.
The supermarket chain offers over two dozen different departments across its stores, which include dry cleaning, Redbox video terminals, in-store daycare, and pharmacies while it also has partnerships with several banks including Pennsylvania's’ Citizens’ Bank and the Huntingdon Bank found in Ohio and in West Virginia. Both of these banks have branches in Giant Eagle stores, and they are open seven days a week, except on federal holidays.
The chain has also experimented with other departments that are foreign in most supermarkets - some of the larger stores feature foreign and exotic foods, drive-thru pharmacies, daycare services in the shape of Eagle’s Nest, and coffee shops and in-store foods.
3. The 1950s period
During the 1950s, they set up gourmet food sections, while expanding the average size of the stores to around 15,000 square feet. The 1950s also saw the introduction of its own trading stamp program, which only led to more growth for the company. During this period of the brand's history, the supermarket chain stayed ahead of the trends because it was one of the first of Pittsburgh's grocers to introduce freezer cases that were vertically glass-fronted.
In 2012, Giant Eagle was ranked No.21 in Supermarket News “Top 75 North American Food Retailers” which was based on the estimated sales figures from 2011, of around $9.3 billion. By 2005, it was the 32nd largest privately owned corporation, which was determined and noted by Forbes. Looking back to 2005, the supermarket chain is United States 49th largest retailer. In the Summer of 2014, Giant Eagle as a company has made around $9.9 billion made in its annual sales.
5. Innovations in the 60s and 70s
In the 1960s-1970s period, the supermarket company responded to its customers’ wishes and discontinued its stamp program and replaced them with much lower prices in a move which not only surprised the grocery industry but also made the Wall Street Journal print an article about it. Sometime around this point, the supermarket chain had no alternative but to respond to the inflation with much more reduced prices and the introduction of more generic produces. At the same time, Giant Eagle mechanized its order filling and loading processes.
The innovations continued with the establishment of bakeries in the stores which sold bakery products that are made from scratch in the shops. During this decade, the company also bought up the former Kruger warehouse located in Lawrenceville, one of the first of many offers made to offer commercial outlets.
The supermarket chain did this in order to double its warehouse size, though it did build a 481,000 square foot warehouse in the West End of Pittsburgh. While it quickly established its opening hours in its stores on Sundays, providing a seven-day weekly opening service, with the stores remaining open for twenty-four hours for the first time.
One of the most significant technological innovations during this period was the introduction of the computerized purchasing system with a mechanical order filling and a number of new loading procedures that were likewise mechanical.
Giant Eagle rebranded some of its stores, renaming them Market District. The plan was to attract customers who are more upscale. Initially, only two stores were opened with this rebranding in 2006, in Pittsburgh and in Bethel Park. The Giant Eagle logo is above the Market District logo to show the connection. Originally there were two stores, now there are 13 of them, with the fourteenth store under construction in a Cleveland suburb of Westlake, in Ohio. The store is scheduled to be opened in 2019.
7. Videos... DVDs
Nowadays the supermarket stores feature the Redbox automated retail machines which sell and dispenses DVDs, but in the past, they once operated Iggle Video in many of its stores to act as video rental outlets. They have been phased out since the mid to late 2000s as video rental stores have lost their business, and they have been replaced over the years by online services, such as online marketplaces such as eBay or Amazon, or by independent outlets.
8. Who currently runs the business?
Laura Shapira Kenet is the CEO and the President of Giant Eagle, Inc with the executive chairman being David Shapira. Together they run around 417 stores Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Indiana, and in West Virginia from their headquarters in O’Hara township in Pennsylvania. They also run the GetGo convenience store business with the aid from John Lucot, who serves as the President and the Chief Operating officer at Giant Eagle.
9. What do they sell?
Giant Eagle sells everything a normal supermarket sells - bakery, frozen foods, deli, dairy, meat, liquor, general grocery, lottery tickets, dry ice, seafood, sushi, prepared foods, money orders, ordinary snacks like confectionary, but it also provides services like Western Union and it also has Starbucks branches whose employees are employed by the chain, but become baristas who are certified after their training. They also feature pharmacies which have been included in their business format since the 1980s.
They also included a "store within a store" approach, adding things like florists, photographic developers, and video rental services. The pharmacy side of the format offers immunizations for influenza, pneumonia, and zostavax. The pharmacies are walk-in, though they do vary. They have also developed a new food initiative with Market District, which allows the customers to explore inspiring food while at the same time it includes an array of specialist gourmet, speciality, and organic foods.
The GetGo convenience store which is also operating in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, Maryland and Ohio, is a chain owned and operated by Giant Eagle since 2001, but it had been around since 1985 as Cross Roads, part of Guttman Oil’s retail outlet, brought up by Giant Eagle. They also operate the GetGo kitchen and the WetGo car washing service.
11. What comes after a convenience store and is a step below a supermarket? A Hybrid
A larger version of GetGo but smaller than the average Giant Eagle store was opened in May 2016, called Giant Eagle Express which offers much of the same services as the larger stores, but operates on a smaller scale. Essentially, Giant Eagle Express is just a hybrid of a convenience store and a supermarket. It also operates a cafe which serves prepared sandwiches, with a salad bar, with an internet connection which is wireless. At the moment there are only one of these Express stores, which is in Pennsylvania.
12. How many people work for Giant Eagle?
There are over 36,000 employees in the 417 stores. Many of these people are unionized by the United Food and Commercial Workers, however, some of the Eagle’s Nest and Photographic’s Lab employees are not unionized like many other employees hired by other independent companies throughout Pennsylvania.
13. A History of Advertising Slogans
The supermarket brand has had several advertising slogans. In 1993 to 2001, the slogan was “It takes a giant to make life simpler.” This particular slogan was used mainly for convenience, spawning the “Fe Fi Fo Fum” commercials, which showed all the general products of the store. This slogan was changed in 2001 and wasn’t changed again until 2009.
The slogan was “Make every day taste better,” and was used to focus on the quality of the products which was a change from the previous slogan where the convenience was focused on. From 2009 to 2014, the Slogan was once again altered to “That’s my Giant Eagle advantage.” Now the supermarket chain currently uses the slogan “There’s another Giant Eagle Advantage.” This time its focus is on the eAdvantage offer currently shown. Plus, there are employees and customers who offer their own opinions on the products.
14. Complaints due to expansion
Walmart’s construction of super centers has led to market share loss in recent years. Only a few independent stores like Aldi and those stores operated by Supervalu, such as FoodLand, Save-A-Lot, Shop N' Save, and County market have a presence in the area of Pittsburgh, though they don't have much market share.
Virtually identical accusations have been made of the smaller GetGo convenience store company owned and operated by Giant Eagle. In the past GetGo have prevented other convenience store companies Sheetz and Speedway opening up in the Pittsburgh area, although some competitors have opened up their shops in the immediate suburbs.
The company has received criticism for buying up other convenience outlets - GetGo is a prime example - or simply buying up real estate space to prevent competitors from building nearby. A prime example is when Walmart once tried to open a site at the Northern Lights Shopping center in Pennsylvania, and Giant Eagle blocked it successfully. However, Walmart managed to build it behind the property in 2014, thanks to discovering a loophole around the lease at Northern Lights. The Giant Eagle branch currently open in the Northern Lights Shopping Center is privately owned but still of interest to the large company.
16. An Old Competitor
Kroger and Giant Eagle are competitors in Columbus and Indianapolis. Kroger had purchased the original company, but they left later on due to local economic problems. Now the supermarket brand occupies many former Kroger sites. If you ever visit a Giant Eagle supermarket with a sloped glass-roof entrance, you have just walked into a former Kruger store from the 1980s, though these have been remodeled over the years. Some have been replaced by the current Giant Eagle prototype released in the early 2000s.
17. First-time app user
In 2018, the supermarket chain became Pittsburgh’s first major retailer to launch the mobile shopping app, which is common in many places and with dozens of other supermarket brands. It was done to save time and to also lessen how many people queued up in lines, and to create a fully streamlined checkout process.
18. How many people use it?
In the 417 stores, there are around 4.6 million annual customers, who also purchase 20-60 thousand unique items in each of the supermarkets. While they operate more than four-hundred individual stores, each one varying in size from 120,000 square-foot supermarkets to much smaller convenience markets that sell fuel and food themselves.
19. What are they like to shop at?
Giant Eagle employees are meant to be kind to the customers, and treat each other with respect as customers come to them. The atmosphere within the stores and the other smaller businesses is family-like, with each employee meant to make themselves and the company greater. Employees sell customer loyalty programs. The GetGo locations themselves are responsible for the sale and advertisement of the Fuelperks scheme.
20. What does management want?
The management and the employees want every one of their customers to be healthy and to live balanced lives.
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Written by Garrett Parker
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