Retail’s Battle Royale

Showdowns are abounding stateside these days as Tesco’s Fresh & Easy, Wal-Mart’s Marketside and Japanese Famima stores are trying to achieve dominance in the convenience channel.

The Orange County Register reported that in Fountain Valley, Calif., Fresh & Easy and Famima are squaring off right across the street from each other.

The stores in that area opened just a day apart from each other. Reporters at the OC Register visited the stores and rated them in a number of categories, including Sushi, Indian food, pasta, dessert, snacks, beverages and price. Famima bested Fresh & Easy in most of the categories.

For Indian food, the reporters compared Fresh & Easy’s Chicken masala, which sold for $4.50, to Famima’s chicken korma dish, which was $5.95. Fresh & Easy was chosen as the winner.

In sushi, the reporters chose Famima as the hands-down winner, and said Fresh & Easy’s spicy tuna rolls and nigiri plate, at $4.99, were “some of the worst sushi I’ve had.” The sushi at Famima was $7.75.

When it came to pasta, Famima won with its five-cheese tortellini with roasted red pepper sauce ($5.98), compared to Fresh & Easy’s chicken Fettuccine alfredo, “which was OK but nothing to write Rome about,” the reporters reported.

On dessert, the Fresh & Easy store was rated on its Chocolate Bliss Sundae ($3.99), while Famima was rated on its Chocolate Whole Lotta Banana ($2.99). It was a draw. “Both chocolate desserts are fabulous in their own right,” the reporters wrote.

In the snack aisle, reporters tested Fresh & Easy’s Vegetable Sticks & Crisps ($1.98) and compared it to Famima’s Japanese fruit gummy candies, selling for $2.69. Famima had more “fun snacks” and was chosen as the winner here.

In beverages, Famima won again with its Raume soda ($1.29), compared to Fresh & Easy’s store-brand strawberry lemonade ($2.38 for a 32-ounce bottle). Also tested was Fresh & Easy’s tropical black tea, which retails at $3.28 for a 59-ounce bottle.

When it came to price, though, Fresh & Easy emerged as the winner. “Its regular prices and daily special make for affordable shopping that won’t break the bank,” one reporter said.

Meanwhile, a reporter at the UK magazine Convenience Store, Tracy West, flew to Las Vegas to test out Tesco’s Fresh & Easy concept.

“As I’m reporting from Las Vegas I’d better put my cards on the table at the outset and say I’m not Tesco’s biggest fan and I say that as both someone who has written for Convenience Store magazine for many years and has seen how the grocery giant has trampled on the independents, and as a consumer,” West wrote. “That said, I was quite excited to see Tesco’s take on a stateside c-store.”

West was impressed with the chain’s fresh fruit and displays of sandwiches, sushi, juices, smoothies, fresh meats and more.

“I must say that I did like the store, specifically the fresh food bits, but I found the layout of other areas puzzling,” West wrote. “In addition, there was no clever merchandising to entice you to make any impulse purchases. Even though I visited at 11:30 a.m. on a Friday, a time when a typical UK c-store would be full of people, this Fresh & Easy outlet was practically empty.”

West reported that Wal-Mart is anxiously eying up the smaller convenience format with its Marketside concept as well.

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