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    Fresh & Easy Opens Third Bakersfield Store

    Bakersfield stores identified as top performers for struggling new chain.

    BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Two days after admitting to the London Times that its research had misread the U.S. market, United Kingdom-based Tesco announced it was opening its third Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market store in the city of Bakersfield, Calif.

    The giant international supermarket and convenience store retailer opened its first two stores in the area last December as part of its previous plans to quickly open as many as 200 stores in the U.S. The British retailer claims the two Bakersfield stores are among their top performing units in the country. Fresh & Easy is a hybrid convenience/grocery concept that Tesco felt would fill a gap in the U.S. market for a convenient grocery store marketing fresh food.

    CSNews Online reported Tuesday that despite the in-depth research conducted by the retailer to identify shopper needs in the West Coast grocery market, sales results have not lived up to expectations.

    Tim Mason, head of Tesco’s U.S. business, said that the retailer assumed the Fresh & Easy brand would be more readily accepted by U.S. consumers and that the new chain would not have to be so price sensitive.

    "There’s less loyalty in the American market," Mason told the London Times. "A Brit has to hear it a few times before you accept that people make up their mind where to go each week when they check out the special offers round the kitchen table."

    At the Bakersfield stores, it appears that U.S. consumer are at least getting the "fresh" message. More than 60 percent of the top selling items at the stores have been fruit, vegetables, poultry and dairy products. All Fresh & Easy products are made with no added trans fats, no artificial colors or flavors and only use preservatives when absolutely necessary, the company said.

    As part of the grand opening celebration, Fresh & Easy donated $1,000 to the Henrietta Weill Memorial Child Guidance Clinic, a nonprofit organization that provides mental health and substance abuse services and the resources necessary to promote wellness and recovery for Kern County children, families, and adults.

    In light of overall disappointing results with the 113 Fresh & Easy outlets now open in Arizona, Nevada and California, as well as the overall economic recession, the company has postponed previous plans to have 200 branches open by at least six months, the newspaper reported.

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