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The Los Angeles Times writes this morning that “in California, giant British retailer Tesco is carefully cultivating an image as a socially responsible grocer with good paying jobs, fresh organic foods and the latest in environmentally friendly technology. But the firm's new Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market chain, due to open here this fall, is a far cry from the Tesco flagship stores in Britain, where the vast supermarkets are more like Wal-Mart in size, selection and controversy.”

Some of the comparisons seem jarring: “To prove its green credentials, Fresh & Easy adopted a baby elephant in Kenya, it roofed its Disneyland-sized distribution center in Riverside with solar energy arrays and will use a polar bear as a corporate symbol to remind people of global warming. Workers will start at $10 an hour and get health insurance. Internationally, however, Tesco has come under fire for the decapitation of live turtles at stores in China, alleged purchases of sweatshop goods from Bangladesh and unfettered expansion in England that is driving small shops out of business.”

However, Tesco spokesman Greg Sage rejects the premise that Tesco is being inconsistent. “It is unfair to suggest our statements about our planned business in the U.S. are not genuine by picking a handful of isolated issues that have occurred around the world over the past few years," he says.
KC's View:
There is no question that Tesco is seen in many countries as similar to Wal-Mart in its approach to business, though I’d suggest that it has a somewhat more aspirational approach to the shopping experience than Wal-Mart has.

While Tesco is going to have to be conscious of the image thing in the US, in the end I think the most important thing will be what kinds of stores does it operate, are they really different from traditional US stores, and are they relevant to the US consumer.

If it achieves these goals, then Tesco will be successful. If not, it may end having more in common with the turtles than it would like.