Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market opened its 100th store this week, just a year after officially launching its presence on the West Coast of the U.S.
The expansion watermark was timed with less celebratory news, however, as CEO Tim Mason told UK media outlet The Times of London that Tesco – Fresh & Easy’s parent company in the UK – may put new-store expansion plans on hold because of the recessionary environment in the U.S.
Fresh & Easy was hoping to have 200 stores throughout its tri-state market (California, Nevada and Arizona) by February. More than likely, that target will have to be pushed back to November of next year, The Times reported.
Elected officials, hundreds of customers and neighbors in Fullerton, California joined Fresh & Easy CEO Tim Mason to mark the event. Just one year after officially opening its first store in the Glassell Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, the company now operates 100 stores in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada.
At the opening of store No. 100 in California this week, Mason pointed out a few ways the retailer is starting to change the way Americans shop.
“We’ve built a unique business from the ground up by listening to what Americans want in a grocery market,” Mason said. “They told us they wanted fresh, quality foods at prices they could afford. They told us they wanted to get the groceries and staples they need in one easy-to-shop location. And, they told us they wanted stores close to where they live.
“One year and 100 stores later, the response from customers to our offer has surpassed our expectations,” Mason said. “Both internal and independent research regularly confirms customers like the quality and prices of our food, as well as the convenient locations of our stores.”
Mason said the Fresh & Easy format is well suited for cost-conscious consumers in the current economic tumult in the U.S.
“We’ve reintroduced the quality and service of a neighborhood market but at budget prices that everyone can afford,” he said.
Over the past year, some of Fresh & Easy’s accomplishments have included:
STORES: Fresh & Easy has opened 26 stores in Phoenix; 25 in Las Vegas; and 49 in Southern California. The company continues to secure more locations each week and has secured a strong pipeline of stores in California, Arizona and Nevada. The company said it has also announced plans to open stores in Northern California.
PRODUCTS: Fresh & Easy said its kitchen products have been especially well received, with more than 10 million products produced in the company’s first year. The kitchen and distribution center in Riverside, Calif., serves all the company’s stores. Because of the popularity of the kitchen products, Fresh & Easy’s Head Chef Mike Ainslie has introduced more than 100 additional products since the first store opening. All Fresh & Easy products are made with no added trans fats, no artificial flavors or colors and use preservatives only when absolutely necessary.
PEOPLE: Each Fresh & Easy store employs about 20 to 30 employees, and the company hires from local neighborhoods that surround each store. The company now employs over 3,000 people in stores, at its distribution center, and in its head office. More than 200 people have been promoted from customer assistant positions into management and more promotion opportunities are available with every store the company opens.
NEIGHBORHOODS: Fresh & Easy said it keeps store parking lots and backyards clean and tidy. Every time it opens a new store, the store makes a $1,000 donation to a local group based on suggestions from the neighborhood. This year, Fresh & Easy has contributed more than $100,000 to local neighborhood causes. The company has regional food bank partnerships and each store has a monthly budget for product donations.
ENVIRONMENT: Fresh & Easy joined the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) volume certification program to demonstrate its commitment to build green. The company recycles or reuses all its shipping and display materials and uses environmentally-friendly trailers to transport food. The company also invested in one of California’s largest solar roof installations (500,000 square feet) on its distribution center, which currently produces over 75% of the center’s energy.