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Good piece on about how globalization is resulting in the expansion of foreign retail concepts onto American shores, with Tesco’s incursion onto the US west coast a prime example.

But, Slate notes, Tesco is hardly the first:

“Tesco is following in the footsteps of Pret a Manger, the sandwich shop that, despite its Gallic moniker, hails from ... London. At lunchtime, midtown Manhattan office warriors queue six deep, clutching organic chicken Caesar salads and roast beef and arugula sandwiches—all in biodegradable boxes. The food is free of chemicals or preservatives, and Pret's packaging is slathered with precious foodie rhetoric. The chain (13 outposts in Manhattan) aims to ‘pursue harmony and balance in the business of making and serving great food.’

“Pret found it slow going in Manhattan when it first arrived in 2001 because ‘we could not find the source of very good, confident, strong-tasting ingredients,’ says Julian Metcalfe, the effervescent co-founder of Pret a Manger. (A Brit talking smack about the quality of New York-area food products is a little like a Yank denigrating the relative quality of British soccer.) Pret a Manger, expanding rapidly in Manhattan, has designs on Boston and Washington. ‘For us to have 50 in New York will be nothing,’ says Metcalfe.”

And, Slate notes, even Starbucks may see some European competition “from the birthplace of espresso. Italy is synonymous with slow food, lovingly crafted goods, and, to put it charitably, a less-than-frenetic pace of customer service. Yet Illy, the Italian coffee maker, this fall will open its first Illy Espressamente coffee bar in a Las Vegas hotel.

“If you're keeping score at home, that will bring the tally to: Illy 1, Starbucks, 9,814.”
KC's View:
I think that what sets some of these concepts apart is the fact that they aren’t lowest-common-denominator retailers. Tesco, Pret a Manger and Starbucks are all about aspiration…which is something that a lot of consumers find attractive.