Thursday, March 13, 2008

End-of-The-Week Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market News Roundup

New Store Development(s)

Delta Fresh (& Easy): A developer in the city of Bethel Island in Northern California is in discussions with Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market to locate one of its small-format grocery stores in Laurel Plaza, a shopping center being developed by local developer O' Hara Properties on the northwest corner of Laura Road and O'Hara Avenue in this small California Delta city of less then 10,000 residents in the Bay Area county of Contra Costa, according to Rebeca Willis, Bethel Island's community development director. The City Council approved the development yesterday.

The city is located in Northern California's Delta region. It's about 60 miles from both San Francisco in the Bay Area and Sacramento in the Central Valley. It's also about 30 miles from Stockton, where we've reported Tesco plans on locating its Northern California region distribution center, which would service its grocery markets in Northern and Central California.

The developer already has a Rite Aid drug store lined up to go in the shopping center. A bank and a coffee shop/cafe also are negotiating for space in Laura Plaza. The original plans for the center include two fast-food restaurants. However, the developer is negotiating with Tesco's Fresh & Easy as it would like to have a grocery store to anchor the new commercial development rather than the two fast food shops.

The project's architect, Tom Wilson of Arch Architects, seems to think its likely Fresh & Easy will sign a lease for a store in the center. His plans for the center show an attractive setting with contemporary buildings which blend in with the city's design, landscaping that screens the shopping center from the street, plaza's with tables and chairs, numerous pedestrian walkways, and about 160 trees located throughout the commercial retail development.

As we've reported, Fresh & Easy has thus far signed leases for 18 stores in the San Francisco Bay area and for 19 units in the Sacramento Metropolitan region in Northern California. The first stores are slated to start opening as early as the end of this year, but more likely in early 2009. We've said more leases--and store locations-- are on the way beyond those initial 37 for Northern California. It looks like the new Laural Plaza center in Bethel Island could be one of those new locations.

(Retail) anchor away in Bakersfield: As we reported earlier this week, Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market is planning to open at least six stores in the Bakersfield, California Metropolitan area: three units in the city of Bakersfield and one store each in the nearby city's of Wasco and Delano.

One of the three Fresh & Easy grocery stores slated for Bakersfield will be the retail anchor of a new 11-acre shopping center called Mustang Square. In addition to the 10,000 square foot Fresh & Easy store, the center will include a Walgreen's Drug, a car wash and two drive-through restaurants. The new development is near the city's Stockdale High School.

Neighborhood residents were all for the Fresh & Easy grocery store and the Walgreen's, but a number of nearby residents recently came out against locating the car wash and the two drive-through fast food restaurants in the new center because they said the businesses would cause too much noise for the nearby residential neighborhood.

There was worry for a time that the entire project would fail to gain approval. However, the developer of the proposed shopping center said he would revise the center's design and make other changes in order to minimize noise from the car wash and fast food restaurants. That was enough for the Bakersfield City Council. Last night the legislative body approved the plans for the center on a 6 -to- 1 vote, with only one member dissenting. The center--and thus the new Fresh & Easy grocery market-- is scheduled to open sometime in 2009.

Spirits are down--beer and wine only: The state of California has refused to approve a liquor license application for a Fresh & Easy grocery store in Van Nuys (Southern) California after a coalition of community and neighborhood groups based in Los Angeles petitioned and lobbied the state booze board, arguing there are already too many stores selling spirits in the area. The state liquor license review board agreed and denied Tesco's application.

The store can still sell beer and wine, since virtually any retailer in the state can sell the beverages in the adult drinks categories as long as they meet minimal qualifications and pay for and legally obtain a permit. However, it's not known if Tesco will go forward with the Van Nuys Fresh & Easy store absent being able to sell spirits at the proposed location. A Tesco spokesman said one option would be to not locate a store in the city at all. The other would be to go forward and sell just beer and wine at the proposed Van Nuys unit.

Van Nuys is a district in the city of Los Angeles and part of Los Angeles County. The Los Angeles-based coalition tells us it plans to protest other Fresh & Easy proposed store liquor license applications in Los Angeles County, and perhaps in other Southern California counties as well.

Vox Populi: Bloggers Speak Out on Fresh & Easy

Jennifer's new love: JENMARIE702 (aka: Jennifer) is a working mom who writes a blog guessed it, JENMARIE702. Blogger Jennifer lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, is 28 years old, and her astrological sign is Aries. what more do you really need to know?

Well, one more thing... JENMARIE702 says she has a new love. No, it's not a new significant other. Rather, she says in a blog post from yesterday that her new love is one of the Las Vegas Metro region Fresh & Easy grocery stores where she has been shopping of late. Read what Jennifer thinks--and feels--about this new love in her life here.

An underwhelmed brand manager: One the other hand, Dave Knox, who is a marketing guy and a brand manager for consumer products giant Proctor & Gamble (P&G), was recently visiting Las Vegas and spent some time in a Fresh & Easy grocery store there. Knox, who writes his own marketing blog called "It's a Hard Knox Life," when he isn't analyzing, positioning and messaging over at P&G, says he was very underwhelmed by the Fresh & Easy concept and store. Read P&G brand manager Knox's analysis--"Fresh & Easy Leaves Me Underwhelmed"--of the Fresh & Easy grocery market he visited in Las Vegas here.

When Tara Met Fresh & Easy: Tara Renee Settembre is a twenty-something woman who works in high-tech PR in Los Angeles. Tara also writes a personal blog called When Tara Met Blog. Tara's blog is hip, yet real. She's a New York native who picked-up and moved to the left coast--and often writes about the differences between the two regions in her blog.

Tara also writes about an eclectic range of subjects: her personal adventures, the celebrities she runs into in Hollywood, relationships, fashion, film reviews and even cupcakes. Tara Met cupcake...and loved it, by the way.

A few other facts about Tara: If she were a crayon, she says she would be a red one. Her favorite drink is green tea...and red wine. Baseball is her favorite sport. The New York Yankees are her favorite team, despite the fact she now lives in the heart of LA Dodgers' country. Also...Tara prefers the taste of chocolate but the smell of vanilla. And, despite the carbs, pasta is her favorite food. [More Tara facts here.]

Tara recently sent us a link to her blog post about her first visit to the recently-opened Fresh & Easy grocery store in Hollywood, California. The store is located on Hollywood Blvd., right along the famous "Walk of Stars." Read what Tara has to say about her first Fresh & Easy shopping trip here. Or, as we like to call it, "When Tara Met Fresh & Easy." [You can read our January and February coverage of the Fresh & Easy Hollywood grand opening here.]

Fresh & Easy-Ecetra

The 'World Retail Awards': Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market has been nominated in the category of Innovative Retail Format of the Year for this year's annual World Retail Awards competition, which will be held on April 10th in Barcelona, Spain. Fresh & Easy is the only nominee in this category from the United States.

Tesco Tidbits

Breaking into Tesco: United Kingdom-based Tesco plc., the parent company of Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market in the U.S., now has its very own reality show on the telly in the UK. The new show is called "Breaking Into Tesco." The reality show's concept: It's about a bunch of home cooks and potential entrepreneurs competing against each other to get their dishes onto the shelves as products in Tesco supermarkets in the UK. Since Tesco is the largest food retailer in the UK--that's a big deal. Read more about the reality show here.

Tesco v. Sainsbury's in the UK : One man's view: A blog called Economics Help has a short and interesting piece comparing Tesco, the UK's largest retailer with about a 34% share of the grocery sales market, and Sainsbury's, the number two grocery retailer in the nation. The blog is written by an economics teacher, Tejvan Richard Pettinger, who lives and works in Oxford, England. Read Mr. Pettinger's comparison between the two United Kingdom grocery chains--and their stores--here

UK 'green' grocers: Joanna Blythman, a writer for Scotland's Sunday Herald newspaper, has an essay in the paper about the movement to banish, or greatly reduced, the use of plastic grocery or carrier bags in the United Kingdom. She talks about the various retail players, including Tesco, and their behavior vis-a-vis the plastic bag issue in her piece called "A misleading shade of green," which you can read here.

One bag per sprout please: Speaking of plastic bags, it seems that a man named Howard Cooper made a small mistake when he placed an online order for Brussels Sprouts through Tesco Direct, the retailer's home delivery service website in the United Kingdom. Mr. Cooper meant to order a whole bunch of the little Green Brussels sprouts but somehow ended up only ordering one solitary sprout. Tesco Direct however filled his order, and packed the single sprout in its very own plastic bag, Read more here.

A taxing situation: There's been lots of talk in British business and political circles since the Guardian newspaper ran a series of articles a couple weeks ago which suggested Tesco has been avoiding paying its fair share of taxes in its home country. Rather, the Guardian says Tesco has been sheltering funds offshore so as to avoid paying its full share to the man. Other UK newspapers have picked up the story as well. Tesco denies the Guardian's (and others) claims in its stories. The UK Parliament says it plans to investigate. Read more here, here and here.

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