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Lots of reaction to Michael Sansolo’s piece about Tesco’s US Fresh & Easy stores, as well as to the ongoing coverage of the format on MNB.

One MNB user wrote:

While in Las Vegas I made a point to stop at two of Tesco's stores that were fairly close together. I visited both in the 8:00 PM hour.

I was in the first store for 20 minutes and did only saw one other customer during that time. The produce looked okay, some trial size looking bags of croutons selling for 1.05 each was outrageous. The prepared foods were interesting looking. I asked the store if they had a microwave I could use to heat something and was told they did not. The meat looked really poor, with a number of beef packages not the right color and a lot of real thinly cut meat. Most of the items that were perishable in this store had a sell by of the day I visited or the day after with a select few items having a sell by of two days out.

The next store I visited had a few other shoppers inside and had five employees on duty.

The prepared foods remind me of the home meal replacement certain grocers, such as Albertsons, were promoting in the late 1990's (Quick Fixin Ideas). The rest of the store reminded me of a Save-a-Lot with even less selection.

This format needs a serious re-evaluation. The competition in Las Vegas is not sleeping, either. I visited a Smiths at Rampart and Lake Mead that had installed a couple of 12 or so foot island style cases full of refrigerated prepared foods, ready to eat sandwiches, and other items. They had much more selection of ready to eat and heat to eat than Fresh and Easy was offering. They even had tables to sit in the store and eat at. They also had an in-store chef counter with prepared meals that were prepared right in the store, in addition to the standard hot food and the like. This store also had a Kosher deli, bakery, and hot food area.

Would I go back to Fresh and Easy? Not likely. They have nothing to offer.

Another MNB user wrote:

I loved your Fresh and Easy article. I am so glad that you were able to see the premise behind the company. Another thing I wanted to point out about their prepackaged meals is that they also put all of the nutritional information on the packaging including calories, fat and carbohydrates. Most fresh packaged meals don't come with that and if you are trying to watch all those numbers while you are cooking yourself it can be very stressful. I did hear one person say that it was very important to them to buy those individually fresh packaged meals because they know exactly what's in it and it's portion sized. What a great way to cater to lazy or busy Americans by creating something quick, easy, healthy and in proper serving sizes.

Still another MNB user wrote:

Fresh and Easy can be considered a bit of sleeper to say the least.... Yet their prices are pretty good....will win the consumer share ...over time....Particularly like your insight about 2.0 and 3.0 and agree with you 100%...Don't think we have seen the entire picture just yet...still tweaking....they've built a few amazing WH and commissary facilities in CA...spectacular really....bigger plans in mind....

You are right, their stores can be considered a bit bland, agreed, yet so is Walgreens, and there lies the plan....

Fresh and Easy will be on every other street corner in the U.S. and will capture sales with good prices, fresh approach, value added assortment, low key strategy, and neighborhood friendly style....eventually they will catch everyone's a big way....

Oh...forgot to mention their ad's back you can trust statement.....hard to qualify, but powerful none the less....

Exciting times to come.

MNB user Robin Richardson wrote:

I had to fly/drive 2500 miles to get to a FE store, but I was impressed with the convenient/ready to eat and healthy foods. Everything looked appealing (ok, in part it was a long trek).

The ease of getting into/out of a smaller store and the staff who were not overly friendly, but seemed well informed and passionate about their products. I liked the non-warehouse/superstore experience and bought 2 bags worth for the trek home.

On the subject of Wal-Mart’s decision to eliminate almost half the magazine titles that it sells, which we suggested seemed like a good idea since it makes sense only to sell the items that customers actually want. MNB user Tom Rademacher wrote:

I read your newsletter daily and know that you are open to ‘another side to the story’.

Taking the axe to 1,000 titles because they were not selling clearly sounds like the right thing to do, as you concluded.

The problem is in the decision process. If retail stores sold only the top items they would not need 100,000 square feet to do it. Most offer a variety of mustard, for instance, from plain yellow to a variety of browns and spices and from national brands, to imported and regional. Done right the variety is tailored to the market in which is the store is located.

If Wal-Mart has simply eliminated the ‘bottom’ 1,000 then they have done the customer and themselves a disservice. The top selling titles in many of their markets may be buried in this shotgun approach. It is common in the wholesale magazine distribution industry to have a master list of titles from which to choose what is appropriate for each store and the market it serves.

If I start to add more to this ‘opinion’ it would probably approach pamphlet size. Stopping at this point I hope at least illustrates the concern, and yes, I work in the wholesale magazine distribution business.

KC's View: