Thursday, January 24, 2008

The 'Perishable Pundit' Says Jury Still Out on Fresh & Easy: We Agree

Fresh Foods industry veteran Jim Prevor, who publishes the Perishable Pundit online publication, says in a piece posted yesterday that his "intelligence network" of buyers, sellers, vendors and other industry folks tell him they're seeing way too few customers in Fresh & Easy stores when they are in them. Further, Prevor says various product suppliers are telling him that orders from Fresh & Easy are way below expectations. Fresh and Easy currently has 33 grocery markets open in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada as of today.

We--and our own intelligence network which is growing every day--tend to agree with the observations the Perishable Pundit is hearing. Industry sources and vendors have told us they are doing good business in some Fresh & Easy stores, but doing very little in many others.

We also get regular updates from numerous Fresh & Easy shoppers. Thus far, one common theme we've heard from them is that nearly every time they go in their local Fresh & Easy, it's near-empty. One exception--and we hear this often--is the Fresh & Easy in the city of Los Angeles. Based on the reports we've recieved, it sounds like the store is humming along well, and full of shoppers. We're sure there are other stores doing similar brisk business, but based on our reader and source feedback, observation, and Prevor's network, we aren't hearing much about those stores if they do indeed exist.

Prevor isn't writing-off Fresh & Easy by any means in his piece. Nor are we. It's still very early--the first store has only been open since early November, 2007. However, he suggests--and we concur in large part--that there will need to be some format and merchandising tweaks and changes to the stores by Tesco in the near future.

We recently has a conversation with a Fresh & Easy store manager who told us he has expressed those same views to corporate executives. He said they were very receptive to his comments. One of those comments he shared with us was that he told a corporate executive that the company needs to localize its stores much more. We agree with that completely--and think Fresh & Easy is beginning to figure that out.

Read Prevor's full piece in the Perishable Pundit here.

Jim Prevor has written numerous pieces about Tesco and Fresh & Easy in the last year or so. You can view a list of his stories (with links to the articles) here.

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