Tim Mason’s efforts to position Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market as a socially aware, environmentally friendly retailer with an emphasis on fresh food have come to fruition.
The El Segundo, Calif.-based company has come a long way. When it first began opening stores in the U.S. in 2007, critics said they were cold and uninviting. When the company began to change its image, industry analysts then said that the Tesco subsidiary needed to create a better store experience.
Now, the retailer seems to have found the right formula for success. Fresh & Easy stores are known for expansive prepared- and fresh-food selections, and the company is opening new stores at a rate of about one per week, all of which are enjoying great success.
“It has been a remarkable year for Fresh & Easy,” Mason, chief executive officer, told SN.
“We had an incredibly successful launch in Fresno, our newest market, where we now have six stores trading, with more opening this year. We opened a highly anticipated store in South Los Angeles, bringing access to fresh, affordable food to a neighborhood that hadn’t seen a modern grocery store in generations.”
Right now, Mason is continuing to focus on expansion in California, Nevada and Arizona. “We are excited to bring good jobs to new neighborhoods throughout these areas,” he said.
Mason has also made customer involvement and feedback a priority in developing Fresh & Easy’s offerings. Besides asking for feedback on its website, the chain also regularly solicits opinions from customers about items sampled during weekly in-store demos.
“One of the most important things we do as a business is listen to our customers and employees,” Mason said. “The product changes we made over the past year were based off of feedback we received from customers.
“Another aspect of listening to customers is to highlight their favorite items, which is why we have ‘Customer Favorites’ featured in our stores. It is a unique way to show our most loyal customers that we listen to them.”
During the past year, Fresh & Easy has increased product assortment by more than 1,000 items and introduced a line of more nutritious products based on customer feedback. They also listen to fans on Facebook and Twitter to get ideas for endcap displays.
From its prepared-food selection to its green initiatives, and from changes in store layout to the increased attention to Hispanic marketing, what Fresh & Easy chooses to concentrate on is a natural extension of the company’s identity, Mason explained.
“As a good neighbor, we focus on initiatives that are good for the environment and save our customers money,” he said.
In June, Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco’s CEO of 14 years, announced his plans to retire in March 2011. He will be succeeded by Philip Clarke.
Mason will become deputy CEO of Tesco, and will be given the additional group responsibility for branding, values and climate change. He will remain in the U.S.
“I also remain committed to the Fresh & Easy business, and will continue to put significant energy into ensuring its success,” Mason told SN.