Interview: Fresh & Easy Fits Where Others Don’t
Listen to an in-depth interview with Brendan Wonnacott,
communications director for Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market. See the RetailWire Podcast
Before Tesco opened its first Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market,
there were plenty of people willing to predict it would rewrite the rules of
retailing in the U.S. When the company hit some bumps in the road, there were
just as many or more willing to claim it was just another British venture that
wouldn’t make it in the States.
While there’s little question Fresh & Easy
has faced challenges, company executives believe the right steps are being
taken to help it achieve its top and bottom line goals. The chain, which now
operates 159 stores and is on schedule to open roughly one a week, is continuing
to focus on putting its stores in locations where locals need them. Fresh & Easy
is looking to Northern California as its next market for expansion.
“People are really looking for a good opportunity to do shopping, right
in their neighborhoods, right by where they live — fresh food at low prices,
an easy shopping experience,” Brendan Wonnacott, communications director
for Fresh & Easy, told RetailWire. “For us now, two and half
years in, we are keeping up with our pace, and are really focused on serving
the communities we are in — and slowly branching out to more communities in
Among the communities where Fresh & Easy is looking to
open are so-called food deserts that others have avoided due to high crime
rates and other factors.
“We had our job fair for the South LA store earlier this year. We had
hundreds of people show up. We are just now coming up on our hundred-day anniversary
of the store opening and we’ve really seen it’s changed the lives of many folks
that live around that store,” said Mr. Wonnacott. “What we see is
that people want access, that they want to be able to buy fresh produce, meats,
eggs and cheese. And those are indeed the top selling products in those
stores and we’ve been very excited about the performance of those stores across
Fresh & Easy believes the smaller footprint of its stores
gives it an edge.
“We are able (because of store size) to get back to a lot of areas that
haven’t had a lot of access. The first store we opened in a neighborhood called
Glassell Park here in Los Angeles hadn’t had a grocery store in, I think,
a decade or two.”
Location and smaller stores, according to Mr. Wonnacott,
have other advantages.
“Our stores are about 30 percent more energy efficient than a traditional
supermarket of similar size, so we spend less on energy and we are able to
keep our prices low because of that,” he told RetailWire. “Another
bit that’s important for us is where we are located — Southern California,
Arizona, Nevada. We have access to an immense amount of great products here,
and depending on season as much as 70 percent of our produce comes from the
states we operate in.”
Discussion Question: Where do you see the greatest opportunities for Fresh & Easy’s
business? Do you think the chain’s willingness to open stores in under-served
areas will help it reach its goals more quickly? Will we see other large
traditional grocers building stores in these areas, as well?