EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market is a work that's constantly in progress, Simon Uwins, the chain's chief marketing officer, told SN last week.
Speaking just prior to the opening of its 62nd store, located in Manhattan Beach in Southern California, Uwins said the changes evident at that store — and installed at the 61 locations the chain has opened since November in Southern California, Las Vegas and Phoenix — reflect customer feedback that was collected in exit surveys and emails to the company.
Those changes, as previously reported by SN, involve more promotional pricing; more shelf labels calling attention to featured items or making price comparisons with competitors; an expanded selection of both private-label and national-brand merchandise; and additional signs that add color as well as explain the chain's corporate philosophy.
“The changes we've made are improvements, not sea changes,” Uwins pointed out. “Within a year, we may be different than we are today because we follow what customers tell us, which we think is a natural way of doing business.”
Fresh & Easy plans to open approximately 140 more stores between now and February, the end of parent company Tesco's fiscal year, Uwins said. A move into San Francisco and Sacramento, both in Northern California, is planned for 2009, he added, though he declined to indicate when the 40 stores scheduled there would start to open.
The move into Northern California will also encompass the company's second distribution center, he said, though he declined to pinpoint a location.
He said the chain's smartest move in setting up its U.S. business “was to build our own central kitchen to produce the kind of quality meals we want to produce.”
However, the chain's commissary in Riverside, Calif., is only capable of supporting stores in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona, he said. “For Northern California, we'll definitely need more infrastructure, and that will be part and parcel of expanding into that market.”
Uwins said the decision to offer promotional pricing on some merchandise was necessitated by the slowdown in the U.S. economy. “Clearly, the economic environment today is not quite the same as when we started planning these stores three years ago.”