Why Fresh & Easy failed
The grocery chain is likely to close its doors. British giant Tesco just couldn't make a profit here and sent confusing messages to US shoppers.
British grocery giant Tesco (TSCDY) will probably close its Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market stores and head back to Europe. Fresh & Easy's CEO is leaving as well, and the entire money-losing venture will be dismissed as a failure. Fresh & Easy opened in 2007 in the U.S., but lately has begun closing stores and finding other ways to cut costs. It still has about 200 stores in this country, mainly in Nevada, Arizona and California.
Why couldn't Fresh & Easy cut it? The Guardian lists several reasons, starting with its name, which sounds a bit like some kind of sanitary product. Another reason was because Fresh & Easy didn't embrace the couponing culture of America. In Britain, coupons are seen as "a sign of desperation," the Guardian reported.
OK fine, so why is Trader Joe's surviving without coupons? The Guardian says the Fresh & Easy stores were cold and off-putting, with nothing like the warm, fun feeling Trader Joe's evoked.
Some Fresh & Easy stores closed in my neighborhood, and it was easy to see why. People don't want produce sold in shrink-wrapped packages. They weren't big fans of the herbed lamb cuts at the store, and they wanted American staples like Oreos and Doritos at reasonable prices.
Fresh & Easy tried to make a run at the Trader Joe's customer, but Trader Joe's has some of the highest customer loyalty ratings in the business, and shoppers weren't going to make the switch without a good reason. Fresh & Easy just couldn't give them the right reasons.
The U.S. grocery market is super competitive, and without a solid strategy (and a better name) there was just no way Fresh & Easy was going to survive.
"It just became clear to us that the journey to sustainable returns was going to take too long," Tesco's chief executive, Phil Clarke, told reporters, according to Reuters. "It's likely but not certain that our presence in America will come to an end."
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I don't know about the experts in this article, but I found Fresh & Easy to be the perfect grocery store. Leagues better than Ralph's, Albertsons, and yes, even Trader Joe's! Very affordable, lots of coupons offered, clean, FUN, well-designed, and great food (national and store-branded items). And other than a few British items, there was no obvious Tesco influence to supposedly turn off Americans. Shopping there was a pleasure, and my friends and I will truly miss it. I don't know where I'm going to get my groceries now.
I like their organic products from produce to dairy to pastas and pasta sauce. I don't go for their quick fresh meals or frozen processed meals but I like their choice of offerings. It's about half the distance to a Trader Joe's and that's what got me goihg there in the first place, plus I use their coupons religously. I'"ll be sad if they close down.
What do we love about it? Small so it's easy to get in and out of quickly. Consistently best prices in town for dairy products (we go thru 5-7 gallons of milk weekly) and the hub can ride his bicycle there if need be. Knowledgeable and friendly staff. Fresh baked goods, not just french bread loaves like most markets. Good prices on the occasional Brit treats like canned Spotted Dick. As far as produce goes, they are price competitive with the 6 (!) (Stater Brothers, Ralph's, Sprouts, Food 4 Less, Target and WalMart) other local chain stores within 2 miles of our house. How, in an area known for it's strawberries, they can beat them in prices but taste as well is always a surprise to us.
They also offer a wide range of organic food products, both canned and fresh. And their own line of ready-to-eat meals, salads, soups and desserts. All of the ones we've tried (about 2/3 of what they offer) have been tasty and warrant repeat purchases.
If that weren't enough, you can also pick up green products like detergents for competitive prices. The same with pet products, kitchenware and fresh flowers!
In case you think I'm making this up, I went there on Tuesday. I bought 4 packages of 80/20 ground beef at $3.98 for 2 LB each. No one has it for $1.99 a pound here and I bought enough to last the entire month! We swear by their pasta sauces and use at least 2 jars of it a week so $1.99 for each of those is a real bargain too. 4 tomatoes at $.98 and great roll-your-own pizza dough so we had a quick and delish dinner that night. Let's get real and name names here. I also bought 2 12oz boxes of Special K with Red Berries Cereal at 2/$5. My local Food 4 Less had it for the next cheapest price...$4.35 for the same size package. 4 avocados were 4/$2, in-between the highest and lowest Food 4 Less prices but better tasting and quality. Add milk and we topped at just over $30 and used a coupon had us paying under than amount for a lot of food.
I'm not saying they always have the best prices on everything all the time. One must be an informed customer to get the best savings and live within a budget. If I wasn't then I would have paid the $3.49 cost of Best Foods mayonnaise at F4L instead of F&E's $2.48. I'm just saying...if I had only one store to choose from, I would bite the bullet and pay the higher prices on some things.
AND...as budget conscious buyers, they more than any of the other shops, make us feel like they care about us. We get weekly coupons good for X amount of dollars off Y amount of purchase (sometimes $5 off of $25 or $3 off of $30 or $10 from $50) so we made sure to unify our shopping to get those discounts. Plus, their Friends program gives us a percentage back from the purchases we do make.
Where do they fail then, in my eyes? Lack of advertising. I think if they worked harder at that, they wouldn't be in the shape they must be in right now.
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