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After all the coverage last week, it probably made sense to take a breath and make today’s MNB, at least, a reasonably Tesco-free zone. But that doesn’t mean that MNB user don't have something to say. Far from it.

One MNB user wrote:

So I went to the Fresh & Easy in West Covina with my wife this evening at around 9:30 (they close at 10).

It was very sterile feelings with as my wife said "a non-Fresh" feel to it. They had a good selection of foods, but the atmosphere didn't "pop" and it didn't scream "shop hear everyday".

It was "Easy,” though, as they had self-checkouts but lots of people around to say "hi" and offer assistance.

I found their selections to be interesting, and it might do well in urban places. But in order to compete with Trader Joe's, it will need to improve on its warmth. The very next day, we did visit a TJ's and remarked how the atmosphere was so different. Full of people, softer more pleasant interiors, good selection of foods with a nice produce section. Overall, a better experience.

I agree with you on Fresh & Easy. They aim to "change the landscape of American grocers", but I think the approach should be selection, atmosphere, and something that differentiates you from the other guys. I don't think a "sterile, cold" approach is the answer.

I haven't visited, but read about the new Whole Foods in Pasadena. The picture in the LA Times had a "nut roasting" section where they roasted nuts for you while you wait. I could only imagine the positive smells coming from that store.

I’m tempted to suggest that if the competitive wars get any hotter in California someone’s nuts are going to get roasted…but that would be in bad taste.

I questioned last week why Fresh & Easy put its “Kitchen Counter” tasting bar in the back and not the front…and MNB user Richard Lowe responded:

Trader Joe’s tasting counter is in the back corner. They want you to enter and walk around.

Exactly. It is almost in the precise location as Trader Joe’s sampling counters. Which strikes me as another reason to put it someplace different…especially to emphasize the “fresh” in a store that is not as colorful and vivid as a Trader Joe’s.

But another MNB user chimed in:

Don't you think they put the kitchen table at the back of the store adjacent to the prepared meals because that is where people are more likely to linger as they contemplate the Pad Thai/Chicken Curry dilemma, rather than cluttering up the fast-in-and-out-again front of the store? But I suppose that question reflects the central dichotomy of the Jekyll-and-Hyde/Smart-&-Final-has-Trader-Joe's-baby nature of the place.

Maybe. I just think they are burying their lead.

But I love the “Jekyll-and-Hyde/Smart-&-Final-has-Trader-Joe's-baby” line, and plan to steal it. Liberally.

Another MNB user wrote:

Some colleagues and I attended the first day of the new Fresh & Easy store in Anaheim. This by no means is an upscale neighborhood and the place was packed.

What I found most amusing was not the number of shoppers I saw but the number of vendors I met during my visit. There were people I hadn't seen in years. One woman was wearing a Ralph's shirt! While Fresh & Easy isn't perfect, their employee's were helpful (if not somewhat confused), the checkouts were working, and I think they may have identified the "work 60 hours, pick my kids up from soccer practice, Mary's concert is tonight, what in the heck am I going to make for dinner that is healthy for my family and get it really quick that isn't available from Del Taco?" crowd. They aren't lazy, just busy.

I bought their prepackaged food for lunch and it was pretty good (worth a repeat visit to try the Greek Salad). I guess I'm the, "work 60 hours, what the heck am I going to have for lunch that isn't going to cost me a lot of money that isn't Subway related and I can get really quick?" demographic.

By the way, one employee told me that her and 3 of her fellow workers came from the nearby Trader Joe's. Don't know if you want to spread that around or not. I'll leave that call up to you.

Call made. Thanks for sharing.

Another MNB user wrote:

The issues you raised are legitimate. With a smaller footprint and limited selection, Tesco is saving time for their customers. Almost all of the research we've seen says that people would rather save time than money. So the store format should be a plus.

If the price points are competitive, that would be another plus.

As for the impact of their private label, that factor will await the verdict of the shoppers. Rate it "to be determined." Knowing their reputation for fresh foods and quality products throughout the store, it would be quite a surprise if the acceptance of their private label SKU's turned out to be anything but a plus.

Tesco might prove their standards based on how well they do on fresh produce, bread and dairy - plus fresh food. After all, the biggest fill-in shopping items tend to be bananas, bread and milk - and that night's dinner. If shoppers make a "try-out" purchase and it’s a positive one (for time savings, quality products - branded and private label, competitive prices and a good shopping experience), then the odds of repeat visits and sales will increase dramatically.

MNB user Clayton R. Hoerauf wrote:

Sometimes a picture is not worth a thousand words. To me it just looks like Trader Aldi’s.

MNB user James Fraser wrote:

I’m really enjoying your coverage of Tesco. The thing to keep in mind is that this retailer has a history of jumping into markets, formats and communication often without having done traditional due diligence. Their strength is speed. They learn and adapt at a rate unheard of for any of the North American retailer. This is their toe in the water watch how fast they will learn to swim.

Another MNB user wrote:

Thanks for covering the Tesco stores. A few things jump out at me. In the one picture of the Kitchen Table, there is one of those nice, yellow "wet floor" stands tucked away back there. Given that Tesco thought through the intricate details about its stores, why didn't they come up with a nicer stand rather than the rudimentary one and why do they store it in the kitchen where it can be seen? I usually associate the sight of those with some janitor or the restroom - hardly the message you want to send with food.

Also, the consumers in the pictures were interesting. I envisioned the target market to be soccer moms with too much to do and too little time or empty nesters coming off the golf course who prefer to grab prepared food rather than make it.

Also, in the picture with the olives you missed the price on the proscuitto ham on the rack below. I'm always curious about specialty deli items like cured meats and hard cheeses.

Lastly, you did not show much of the wine aisle. I was really interested in seeing the wine selection.

If I lived near a Tesco, my first purchase would be a bottle of wine, a package of cured meat, a wedge of hard cheese and some good crackers. Maybe some grapes. Put it all out on the patio along with a TV with the game on and I would be set.

The wine aisle is big and well-stocked, with all single bottles ranging from $1.99 to more than thirty bucks. The $1.99 wines, however, are available by the case.

One final grammar note:

MNB user Bill Ziegler objected to one turn of phrase we used, asking whether Fresh & Easy was “unique enough” to survive.

He wrote:

Weren't you raised by Jesuits? I know they taught you better than that! Something is either unique or not. It's the old saw of "a little pregnant." It just can't be.

Good point. Funny enough, I just read an essay by Stephen King in which he says that “unique” is one of only two words in the English language that cannot be modified. Either something is unique or it isn’t…

I apologize for the bad writing. As for the Jesuits, don't blame them. Besides, if you were to ask them, it probably wouldn’t be my grammar that they’d be most concerned about…

Interestingly enough, the other word that King says cannot be modified is “cool.” Either something is “cool” or it isn’t. “It just is, man,” writes King, who has always been cool.

This is a relevant point because someone who a lot of people would characterize as “cool,” Bruce Springsteen, came up last week in an article about what CEOs can learn from “The Boss.” We quoted from the article last week, and received numerous emails, including this one from MNB user Dave Eberhardt:

STOP DRINKING THE SPRINGSTEEN KOOL-AID……………this guy is just another rock musician guitar player. Next thing you know U.S. News & World Report will start rating business schools based on whether they offer courses in Management Bruce 101 – Springsteenology.

Sounds like a course I’d like to take. Of course, maybe I better get myself to an actual Springsteen concert first…as MNB user Joe Burns wrote:

We must fix the deficiency in your cultural resume! At once!

I have been a Springsteen fan for as long as I can remember, being as he is from, pardon the pun, my hometown and I agree with the CEO lesson thing. It's a good analogy.

In addition to those listed in the article you referenced, the CEO trait of genuine instinctive passion is one that I have always been able to spot and truly admire. It's undeniable. You know it within seconds. It can't be manufactured. That's one of the things I love about Springsteen. He oozes that.

I suspect that the Content Guy has been inspired and impressed by many of the same CEO's in the food industry that have inspired me.

You want inspiration? See the Boss. He will be in New England for a few more shows this month!

I’ll look into it…but my impression is that this is an impossible ticket to come by. (Though I’d be willing to exchange a tile ad on MNB for anyone who has a ticket to offer…)

Another MNB user wrote:

Go see Springsteen before you die…How many performers have a satellite radio station that ONLY plays their music - check out E Street (named for the band, not the boss!)?

Actually, there is only one other performer that I know of with his own satellite radio station. And it happens to be a performer who, heaven help me, I like more than Springsteen.

You guessed it.

Jimmy Buffett.

KC's View: