Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Shows A Little More Leg

Tesco, which has been teasing American retailers mercilessly with its secretive launch of Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets, has drawn back the curtains a little bit more. The British food giant is spilling the precise markets of 48 of its California stores, and more clues about its market position.

The first stores are scheduled to open in November, with about 30 more by February, a spokesperson says. An additional 100 are in the pipeline, scheduled to open during the next few years in California, Arizona and Nevada. In addition to the specific markets, Tesco also gave a few more clues about its extensive food production facility in Riverside, California. Just in case anyone was still thinking the chain might sell a handful of prepackaged subs and burritos like American convenience stores, Tesco says its facility will employ between 1,500 and 2,000 people within the next five years.

"We take the promise of providing great food our customers can trust very seriously," says John Burry, the company's chief commercial officer, in the release. "For us, the centerpiece of this concept is freshness. In order to ensure freshness is paramount, we've put our distribution center in Riverside, central to the areas where we are building stores, and we're making daily deliveries to each of our stores. We also aim to source as much as possible from local suppliers."



The company also confirms that the stores will be roughly 10,000 square feet, "smaller than the typical supermarket to give customers a faster, easier shopping experience," the announcement says. "Everyone wants fresh, wholesome food at affordable prices. When our stores begin opening later this year, our customers will see this is exactly what we are providing to the neighborhood."

Its emphasis on freshness and price is important, because while it has been clear from the outset that Tesco was gunning for both the American convenience store and supermarket model, the emphasis is a sign that it's taking on chains like Whole Foods (or "Whole Paycheck," to some of its critics) as well.

All private-label Fresh & Easy products, for example, will be free of trans-fats, artificial colors, and flavors, with restricted amounts of preservatives.

Meanwhile, its competitors are on the edge of their seats. Supermarket News has reported that Steve Burd, Safeway's president/CEO, plans to open smaller-store formats if Tesco does well. Based on Tesco's anticipated locations, Safeway is reportedly "pulling together traffic counts, demographic and ethnic information and income levels and preparing ourselves to defend our business."

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