Things have been pretty dull in the grocery store wars in Los Angeles with the usual players like Ralph's, Vons, Trader Joes, and Whole Foods.
But a new grocery store player is emerging on the scene and is quickly cooking up some competition. Fresh & Easy, a subsidiary of UK based Tesco, is opening their 150th store in Burbank Wednesday, and things may get more interesting.
The small format stores focuses on affordable, fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, and ready-to-eat diners as well as discount prices on popular national brands. Stores are geared for 7-11 convenience with a kind of whole-foods-style atmosphere. There are no checkout clerks. Everything is self serve. The results are lower overhead and lower prices on everyday items.
According to the LA Times, Tesco, the world's third-largest retailer, has spent years trying to crack the U.S. market. They've committed to investing $2 billion over five years to make it work.
But things have been far from Easy. The first stores opened in 2007 amid tough competition and the company met with lackluster success. Store sales were off nearly 70% from expectations, according to the LA Times and the company has had to battle with supply problems, labor unions, and environmental approval issues at its distribution center.
The company paused briefly in April 2008 from opening new stores to reevaluate it's business strategy but resumed again in July.
According to the Times:
The grocer has already made a couple of changes to its business plan, such as taking American Express cards and adding to its selection of prepared foods. It named Jeff Adams, an American who formerly headed Tesco's stores in Thailand, to an undisclosed executive position to strengthen the management team as it considers more expansion.
Dennis believes Adams will be the No. 2 executive at the chain and will be responsible for figuring out what's gone astray and how to fix it.
The company believes it's on the right track and executives are encouraged as sales grow.
With the opening of the Burbank location, the company will have 150 stores in California, Nevada, and Arizona. The company operates a 1,400,000 square foot distribution center in Riverside, California and is headquartered in El Segunda where much of the Fresh & Easy branded merchandise is made.