Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Planning Major Renovations at Two California Stores

Companion Story: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Plans to Test Full-Service Checkout at Two Stores in California

Breaking Buzz & Analysis

Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market is planning to make major renovations at two of its stores in California, Fresh & Easy Buzz has learned.

The two stores are at Main Street and Raymond Avenue in the Southern California city of Alhambra, and at Lincoln and Sterling in Lincoln, California, which is near Sacramento in Northern California.

The key element of the renovation and retrofit project will be the addition of full-service checkout lanes in both stores, as we reported in this related story.

Fresh & Easy will keep the self-service checkouts currently in the stores, but plans to add the full-service checkout lanes as an option for customers, which is something we've been saying for five years the Tesco-owned grocery chain needs to do in all its stores.

In addition to adding the full-service checkouts, Fresh & Easy plans a major renovation and realignment of the produce departments in the two grocery stores, adding new display fixtures, which will be wood, along with reusing some of the existing fixtures as part of the produce redo.

Renovation plans also call for adding a coffee bar in the front of both stores.

There will be a few other changes made in the stores as part of the project. But the addition of the full-service checkstands, the complete produce department redo, and the new coffee bar are the key elements of the planned project.

The renovation project might pose some problems for Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market though, according to one of our sources who's very familiar with the project and the plans, because one of the 50 corporate headquarters employees fired last Wednesday was James Smith, who as a director headed up Fresh & Easy's  construction efforts.

Smith, who worked for Fresh & Easy for nearly six years until being dismissed Wednesday (he was among the first employees at the chain in 2007), is the only person who to date has managed retrofits like those planned at the stores in Alhambra and Lincoln for Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, according to our sources.

Our sources say Fresh & Easy still plans to go forward with the project, however, despite no longer having Smith on board.

A source familiar with the project and plans says it's going to be very difficult to pull the project off in the August time-frame, not only because of Smith's departure, but also because the only architect who's ever done such a major retrofit for Fresh & Easy, Rick Redpath, is no longer employed at the firm, Nadel Architects, heading up the project for the grocer.

We've also learned from another source that Fresh & Easy is using a new general contractor for this project instead of LPS, the contractor it's used in the past for similar retrofits.

"Basically, it's an entirely new team, good luck with that," says one of our sources, commenting on the difficulties that can arise when a completely new construction team handles retrofits like the ones planned for the Fresh & Easy markets in Alhambra and Lincoln.

On the other hand, "often new teams, out to prove their worth, can get the job done," another of our sources familiar with the renovation project says. He adds though that "with all that's going on at Fresh & Easy," where he worked for about five years but isn't one of the employees let go on Wednesday," it's hard to understand why they are doing these renovations now." It's basically too late, in my opinion," he says.

For us here at Fresh & Easy Buzz, the key element of the retrofits is the addition of the full-service checkout lanes in the two California stores, as we detailed in our companion story here.

If Fresh & Easy keeps to its plans, the renovations are set to begin in just a bit over two weeks, August 16, and set to be completed by the end of August. We'll be watching closely.

[Editor's Note: Fresh & Easy Buzz is an independent Blog, and is not affiliated with Tesco, Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, or any of its competitors. No member of the Fresh & Easy Buzz editorial team has ever or currently works for Tesco or its Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market chain.]

No comments: