The road for Tesco’s Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market has been anything but easy. The chain celebrated its fifth anniversary in November, and in early December Tesco said it plans a strategic review of the chain, which could spell its demise.
I’m still convinced there’s a place for the Fresh & Easy concept, but not the concept Tesco was hoping would catch on initially.
The 199-store chain learned some hard lessons. U.S. consumers might not have been ready for an unknown private label. Low income neighborhoods might not have been ready for the mark-up associated with convenience and value-added produce.
The first Fresh & Easy I visited was in Las Vegas, and it was awful. The produce shelves were barely stocked, and a lot of it was out of date. The low income neighborhood seemed a bad fit. Shortly after, Fresh & Easy closed that location.
The next one I visited, in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., gave me hope. I had to avoid herds of 20-somethings shopping for food for “lazy people, like me.”
Fresh & Easy is never going to be a “housewife’s” weekly shopping excursion. It is a place to get lunch on the go, a place to pick up a quick meal when you’ve got no idea, or no time, to figure out your own.
These stores are perfect for urban settings or college campuses, with high populations of younger shoppers who don’t think twice about a $4 cup of coffee.
The one we visited on the PMA Fresh Summit Retail Tour was large, airy, well-merchandised and seemed a good fit for the neighborhood.
I think it’d be a shame to see Fresh & Easy exit the U.S. market. They have a lot to offer, particularly their innovation in meal solutions and value-added produce.