El Segundo, Calif.-based Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, which launched in Southern California in late 2007, reportedly has closed about a dozen standard-size stores but has opened nine 3,000-square-foot express stores in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
The company now has 199 stores in California, Nevada and Arizona, including the nine express stores.
Spezzano said the stores make efficient use of space and are patterned after those in Europe, where real estate is at a premium.
Meanwhile, the company continues to tweak its format.
Fresh & Easy has added up to 4,000 brand-name grocery items to improve variety and has added hot bakeries in its back rooms, Spezzano said.
Produce also has undergone some changes.
When the stores originally opened, just about every produce item was packaged. Exceptions were melons, pineapple and bananas.
Now, about 20 items are sold by the piece, including apples, lemons, avocados, limes and papayas.
“That’s a big change for them,” Spezzano said.
Greensboro, N.C.-based The Fresh Market may be the next supermarket chain to venture into California, Spezzano said.
He said the chain might open 150 stores in Southern California.
Meanwhile, ethnic supermarkets, which increasingly are buying directly from grower-shippers, continue to grow in Southern California, offering low prices, low margins and high volume, Spezzano said.