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.

By Kim Peterson Dec 6, 2012 9:19AM
Credit: Danny Moloshok/Reuters
Caption: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market food store in Compton, CaliforniaFresh & Easy was one of those grocery stores you wanted to love, but kept forgetting about. And now, the chain may be closing its doors.

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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76Comments
Dec 6, 2012 8:19PM
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Well, I'll miss them too. these 'eggsperts' don't know what they're talking about. I say location, location, location was the issue. I liked it but I had to pass by 2 grocery stores to get there so I tried shopping in at least all 3 for different items but guess which one got dropped when I was pressed for time? Too bad, their fresh meals were my go to dinners!
Dec 6, 2012 8:07PM
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Never heard of the store until this article. Perhaps that's their problem.
Dec 6, 2012 7:41PM
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When I first started hearing of their stores I thought what a great concept. I also thought they would be perfect stores for neighborhoods with limited options for fresh groceries. I liked the idea of a smaller store, being able to get in and get out with my groceries.  Unfortunately no stores opened near enough  to  me to become my grocery store of choice. If I was out and about running errands and drove by Fresh and Easy and needed some items I would go in and shop and always was happy with selection and prices.  
Dec 6, 2012 7:06PM
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I hope this doesn't happen!!  Our local Fresh & Easy is my primary grocery store (over Vons and Albertsons) because they have the best prices and excellent prodcuts.  AND, they by far have the BEST coupon deals over any manufacturer's coupon.  On average for a large shopping trip ($125-150), I could save upwards of $25 using their in-house coupons.
Dec 6, 2012 7:04PM
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Glad to hear about it!!!

I worked for company that was a construction vendor doing they're millwork. They were extremely slow at making their payments.... Over 120 days past, the company finally held up a shipment until  payed in total including with the product being delivered. 


Dec 6, 2012 7:00PM
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i really like their self-checkout system since i don't have to deal with moody clerks who give me an insincere half smile.  i also like their $1.99 healthier refrigerated meals.  other than that, they really don't have anything that cannot be found elsewhere.
Dec 6, 2012 6:58PM
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I love Fresh & Easy! The rewards program is great. Everything I buy is fresh & delicious, from the fresh fruits & meats to the pre-prepared items. There's something for every cook. Sometimes I like to make everything from scratch; sometimes I like to cheat a little; sometimes I just want to reheat & eat. The prices are good, too. I wish they did take manufacturers' coupons, but the coupons they do offer are great.
Dec 6, 2012 6:47PM
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This is a huge bummer for me - I actually like most of their products and F&E is the easiest 'in and out' grocery around. I hate having to go to the back of the huge Walmart, Albertsons and Smiths stores just to get a gallon of milk.  F&E is fast and convenient.  It took me awhile to warm up to them, guess that's what I get.....
Dec 6, 2012 6:44PM
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What a shame!  I adopted them as my grocery store due to very competitive prices, the best produce in town, the friendliest staff in this state, and the best hummus I have found in the nation.  I will once again be stuck with the mediocre food of American chains, staff who ignore me, and no more hummus unless I can afford to go back to Turkey for a visit.
Dec 6, 2012 6:36PM
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I'm a devoted Trader Joe's fan, but when Fresh & Easy came to my neighborhood, I thought I'd try it.  The article is right - the store was cold and off-putting, and was limited in their variety of products.  They tried a clip-and-save coupon, $3 off a purchase of at least $30.  I didn't consider that much of a bargain.  It just didn't have the appeal I was looking for, I guess.
Dec 6, 2012 6:32PM
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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.

Dec 6, 2012 6:14PM
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Ah, fresh and easy.  How I long for those bygone highschool days with Janie.
Dec 6, 2012 6:14PM
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I like Fresh and Easy, it was a nice place to stop by and get a quick dinner that wasn't frozen. Its prices are competative. We were hoping that one would open in our neighborhood, maybe their Market Research firm thought opening in a Lower Income area was good, but for me the area they chose in my City was not the best.
Dec 6, 2012 5:59PM
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PS: Are there any commercials of fresh and easy on tv? What about bulletins? Radio announcements?
Dec 6, 2012 5:59PM
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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.

Dec 6, 2012 5:56PM
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It's a grocery store?  I thought it was a massage parlor.
Dec 6, 2012 5:52PM
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This sucks. I like my fresh and easy store. I can get more organic foods at whole foods or trader joes, but I never go to trader joes. I don't like it. I can get better deals at whole foods; I get more for the buck. Whenever I go into a trader joes I walk out with nothing. It is always a disappointment to me, and I have never understood the big deal about it. However, fresh and easy is closer to me than whole foods, in fact, it's right next to my church, so I stop in there to get my organic almond milk or gluten free cookies that are hard to find anywhere else. I would shop there more if I could get organic meats or organic fresh produce, or the dairy free yogurt I can eat, they hardly ever carry the flavors I can. I think the cost of fresh and easy is affordable. Eating healthy, I've been to far more expensive grocery chains. A co-op I went to used to shock me every time I checked out. I could never understand how the cost was that high, but fresh and easy prices work for me.
Dec 6, 2012 5:40PM
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Fresh and Easy market is the best for me!  The commodities are fresh, prices are reasonable.  Let us  start to patronize healthy products!
Dec 6, 2012 1:14PM
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Too pricey for us old folks on fixed incomes who need a thousand ways to macaroni rather than $2-each organic apples, we need the "seconds" of fruit at the big box store at $2 for 5 pounds. Maybe OK in the ritzy nieghborhoods but not in mine.
Dec 6, 2012 12:50PM
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