National Editor Tom Karst Sitting here in a Starbucks coffee shop (nonfat latte, venti) , I'm plugging in one more blog post for the week even though this is technically a vacation day.
I enjoyed visiting with various retail analysts yesterday about the failing fortunes of Fresh & Easy in the U.S. Look for expanded coverage on that topic today on The Packer's news page.
While some may see Tesco's white flag on the Fresh & Easy experiment as a "told you so" moment to throw back at the arrogant Brits, one observer told me that he was sorry the Fresh & Easy chain didn't take hold. The U.S. could use a broader base of buyers.
“Innovation is the bleeding edge,” said Don Goodwin, president of Golden Sun Marketing, Minnetrista, Minn. “They tried to be innovative and they bled profusely.”
Fresh & Easy didn't exactly bowl people over. Emphasis on prepackaged produce, especially at first, didn't mesh with West Coast consumer sensibilities.
The chain never nailed demographics and site selections for their stores, either.
For example, Bruce Peterson noted that the chain’s assortments appeared to be much the same but the neighborhoods they operated in were quite different. Interestingly, Peterson said the Fresh & Easy struggles in that regard reminded him of the experience of Food Lion in the 1980s.
From my coverage this week:
Despite a tremendous investment in research by Tesco to find out the U.S. shopper wanted, the Fresh & Easy stores never hit the mark, said Bill Bishop, chairman of Willard Bishop LLC, Barrington, Ill.
“From the first time I went into the stores, they were very dull and whatever their value proposition was not clear,” he said. Bishop said Fresh & Easy never bridged the huge cultural gap between U.K. and U.S. retailing.
As opposed to beautiful wet rack and a stunning leaf lettuce display, prepackaged produce didn’t have the “fresh” appeal implied in the Fresh & Easy image, said Ed Odron, owner of Stockton, Calif.-based Ed Odron Produce Marketing Consulting. “In California the expectations were different than people saw when they walked in the store.”
TK: If Tesco is shopping the the Fresh & Easy stores, who will be in the market? Check out what our retail analysts think who might make sense for the stores when the expanded coverage is put online later today.
It is interesting to look back The Packer's initial coverage of Tesco's plan, published in December 2006. Here are excerpts from that story: