Captain Rick: The Fresh & Easy store chain has been put up for sale by U.K. retail giant Tesco, admitting defeat in an attempt to take on U.S. supermarket chains in the southwest like Fry’s, Albertsons, Safeway and Wal-Mart.
Tesco launched Fresh & Easy in California in 2007. A short time later several stores opened in Arizona. I visited one in Gilbert as soon as it opened. My first reaction was … “The prices are high. The selection is poor. The atmosphere is cold. I don’t give this chain much time before it goes under”. To my surprise, Fresh & Easy lasted five years, but I never spend a dollar there. I think Tesco underestimated the strong faithfulness that southwestern grocery shoppers have for their stores, especially here in Arizona where Fry’s is king. It has been my favorite grocery store for over 15 years. Fry’s, a subsidiary of Kroger, is neat, clean, modern with a warm and welcome feel. The selection is great. The prices are also, especially if you use your VIP card. Fry’s specials always beat out Wal-mart. The first Wednesday of the month is Senior Citizen day at Fry’s. It’s the day I stock up for the month at a great 10% discount. Fry’s rewards it’s customers with credits to save up to $2 per gallon of gas at Fry’s gas stations.
My ‘word to the wise’ for those who want to open a grocery chain in the U.S. southwest, especially Arizona … learn the ‘lay of the land’ first. This is the desert. It’s a warm place with lots of warm people who cherish our favorites. It will take a mountain to change our minds from the places we faithfully shop.
Fresh & Easy’s woes have added to the problems Tesco faces in the U.K and other international markets. Third-quarter sales at stores open a year or more fell company-wide by 1.3%, as depressed consumer spending in the U.K. and Europe outweighed an improvement in Asia. Tesco’s share of the U.K. market is also declining.