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    Fresh & Easy Exec Says Concept Fills Gap in U.S. Market

    Elements of Aldi, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods melded into U.S. Fresh & Easy concept.

    LAS VEGAS -- In an exclusive video interview with the editor of Global Convenience Store Focus, Tesco's Fresh & Easy store design and planning director discussed the U.K. retailer's development of its first U.S. store concept and changes it has made based on initial feedback from customers.
    "The U.S. market breaks down between 3,000-4,000 square-foot convenience stores at one end, supermarkets of 35,000 to 80,000 square feet and supercenters of 120,000 to 200,000 square feet at the other. There is a gap between 4,000-square-foot stores and 35,000-square-foot-plus. In Europe, that gap is filled by discount stores but in the U.S. this segment is underserved," said Steve Ryder, who built the original Fresh & Easy test site inside a warehouse in southern California -- where it still exists.

    "So, our goal was to fill this gap and make stores easy to reach located in the neighborhood and also quick and easy to get around," Ryder told Fiona Briggs, editor of Global Convenience Store Focus.
    Ryder said the original Fresh & Easy concept was influenced by other retailers.

    "Aldi is good at value cues and creating a discount feel, and in the U.S. market, Trader Joe's offers a shopping experience, which is a bit quirky. Whole Foods offers freshness," he explained to Briggs and an international group of delegates during the NACS Show.

    Ryder also said the retailer has listened to customers during the two years Fresh & Easy has been open, including some negative feedback that described the stores as "sterile." In response, the retailer refreshed 60 of its stores with additional banners, re-designed panels on grocery endcaps, added more informative messaging about meat and fresh meals, added color to the checkouts and added wall messages about the company's operating philosophy.

    When the economy nose-dived, the retailer made more changes in all stores, including increasing frozen food space, refrigerated all beer stock and added 600 SKUs without increasing congestion by increasing the height of the grocery aisles by up to 10 inches.

    "We also changed the decor again and linked the messages to our first external ad campaign on advertising hoardings, buses and on radio," said Ryder. "Messages are linked to delivering honest low prices by reducing capital expenditure, no additives or preservatives in own label products, date coding everything -- including loose product, local sourcing where possible, re-use and recycling".

    Fresh & Easy now has 30 stores in Arizona – all in the greater Phoenix area, 74 stores in Southern California (with plans to open in Northern California), and 26 stores in the Las Vegas market.

    For the complete video interview with Ryder, as well as a slide show of photos of the Fresh & Easy store in Las Vegas, go to http://www.globalcstorefocus.com/0912/2.html.

    Global Convenience Store Focus is the monthly newsletter produced by Insight Research, the European global partner for NACS, the association for convenience and petroleum retailing. Insight also produces international study tours, conferences and research reports.

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