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Dec-5-2012

Tesco ready to walk away from Fresh & Easy in US. What’s it mean for our store?


The grand opening of the Fresh & Easy store in June 2011

News hit the wires today that Tesco, the largest supermarket group in the UK, is launching a strategic review that may lead to the closure or sale of their US-based Fresh & Easy market chain of stores.

Only a few of the 200 Fresh & Easy stores in the U.S. are making a profit, and Tesco chief executive, Philip Clarke, said during a conference call that it was “likely that our presence in America will come to an end.”

It’s only been 18 months since the new Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market opened on 32nd Avenue near Clement, and it’s unclear from this latest news whether or not it will survive.

We reached out for a comment from Fresh & Easy spokesman Brendan Wonnacott, who had only this to say: “Our focus remains on our people and our customers. It is business as usual in our stores and we look forward to bringing our neighbors the same delicious, wholesome and affordable food they have come to expect from Fresh & Easy.”

The Fresh & Easy brand has been around in the U.S. for about five years, but it was only in 2011 that San Francisco got its first two stores in Hunter’s Point and the Richmond District.

Ideally Tesco will sell or partner with another company to keep the store here in the Richmond District open. Before the Fresh & Easy moved into 32nd and Clement, the building had been vacant for several years after an Albertson’s Market closed down.

In its statement about the company’s plans, Tesco said that it has been approached by parties interested in all or part of the business, or in partnership with Tesco, and that it would give an update on the situation in April 2013.

Fresh & Easy’s fate is still to be decided, but it sounds like nothing will change until at least the second quarter of next year. And we’ll assume for now that the neighboring CVS Pharmacy will stay put.

In the meantime, we will have a new Grocery Outlet store opening up in the old Delano’s Market space at 28th Avenue and Geary early next year. So no matter what happens with the Fresh & Easy location, competition is going to get even stiffer.

Sarah B.

BBC: Tesco to review future of Fresh and Easy US chain
NY Times: Tesco Backing Away From U.S. Operations

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1:18 pm | Posted under Business | 26 comments
  1. Ron said:

    Son of a bitch! :(

  2. Egg said:

    Can’t see Trader Joe’s moving in to the space…neighbors will hate the crowds and traffic issues.

    The lease might be steep for the property to remain vacant for several years after Albertsons (Lucky) called it quits.

  3. Derek said:

    I poked around at the Fresh & Easy on Clement St. when they first opened. Limited selection and their prices didn’t impress me either.

  4. Kira B said:

    Same here, Derek. Been here once or twice in the beginning and decided they weren’t any better than Safeway, in fact worse prices and selection and freshness. Would be super to have a TJ out here, would definitely be a loyal customer if it turned into that.

  5. Bob said:

    I love this store. I shop here all the time. If you look at the Chron’s Taster’s Choice column on Sundays F&E does about as well or better than TJ’s. I save a ton of money using their coupons and Friends card, not to mention their markdown bin. Last time I got $70 worth of already reasonably priced food for about $50. They’ve been great community citizens, giving 5% of their gross on receipts over $20 to local schools during the fall season. The staff is usually helpful. There’s a ton of parking.

    One negative is the self-service checkouts, which are hard for some elderly and non-native speakers to handle, and which occasionally need clerk intervention. I can see people getting frustrating with them, but frankly I much prefer them to sometimes sullen or overly chatty staff at Safeway.

    Another negative is that they don’t have everything, but so what? On most shopping trips I buy the same dozen or so items.

    Our local store has definitely become more crowded over the past several months. But I wish those people who were turned off by the minimum wage, no benefits picketers of the UFCW, or ran screaming “the horror, the horror” when they saw cucumbers wrapped in plastic, had given F&E a better chance to succeed.

  6. alyxandr said:

    Time to stock up on Irish bacon, and those sweet/hot-pepper mixed nuts. I’ll miss the modern, humanless checkout stations, too — guess we’ll have to wait a *bit* longer to catch up to the rest of the world. Having said that, on my last visit it seemed that quite a bit of their (still original?) stock was about to hit its sell-by date all at once, so they can’t be doing very well.

  7. mel said:

    I really liked them when the first opened and would shop their weekly. However, so often the stuff I typically buy was always out of stock. And this was not just one week, but during just about every attempt. I just basically stopped going their except for select things now and then.

  8. njudah said:

    Fresh and Easy has never had a great rep – after all it is owned by Tesco’s the pioneers of selling lagers that are cheaper than water in the UK and other wonderful additions to the UK menu. It’s unfortunate that location has been vacant for so long and now faces uncertainty – my dad used to live near there and it was nice when the old Albertson’s was still around for him and the neighbors.

  9. Matthew said:

    Add me to the list of people who would be sad if this store shuts down. I like the selection of fresh dairy/meat, etc., and the prices are pretty competitive with TJ’s. The only problem I had with it was the automated checkout machines. I guess I don’t have a problem with the machines themselves, more just the fact that half the time I’d be stuck waiting for people who clearly had no idea what they were doing and would wind up creating errors that needed staff assistance to fix. If you have four employees waiting around to fix customer issues, maybe that’s a sign that you should have a couple of actual tellers for people who are more comfortable with that option.

  10. Seth said:

    I tried to give them a fair chance because I really wanted a grocery store to be successful at that location. However, I limit most of my weekly shopping to fruit, vegetables and meat and the quality just wasn’t there for me. I found the meat to be especially objectionable. I don’t shop the processed food aisles, so I can’t speak to the quality or price there. I do hope the CVS hangs in there though. It is so nice to have a clean and organized drug store (as opposed to the chaos of most Walgreens).

  11. Bob said:

    Some people may remember Albertson’s with nostalgia, but the fact is that few people shopped there. I would pull into the lot at night and there would be eight cars there. The store closed because of low sales.

    I don’t have fond memories of the Safeway there many years ago. It seemed to be a smaller, less-well-stocked version of the La Playa store. I’m sure it was convenient for locals w/o cars but it certainly wasn’t anything special, at least as I recall.

  12. Rachel said:

    I love this store, too. Hope it can stay open.

  13. Annie said:

    I tried F&E soon after it opened. The produce was mostly pre-packaged into quatities too large for one person to use before they spoiled (I live by myself), the prepared foods were taste-less, and the whole place left me feeling like I myself had been processed and shrink-wrapped in plastic.

    Speaking only for myself (of course), no tears shed here.

  14. 4th Generation Richmond Districter said:

    Back in the day there was Safeway on Seventh Avenue (the old Police Stables) which had moved from Fourth and Fulton or Safeway on 32nd. Playland was at the Beach.

    My family shopped Grant Super (Market across from the foot of Grant Avenue) for meat, Lincoln Super and Lick Super for everything else except bread, that was Larraburu. Emergency meat came from Lick’s butchers. My aunt who lived on 22nd near Lake shopped the corner store on California. It was only after my grandmother died and she moved in with my other aunt at my grandmother’s house on a lower numbered Avenue that Safeway shopping started because parking on California was getting hard. The aunt who shopped Lick never shopped Safeway and the one that did went to 32nd Avenue even though Seventh was closer. I never knew why except that she never drive Park Presidio to get on the Golden Gate Bridge, always went out 25th and around the coast.

    I expect that it F&E closes that the site will remain empty for some time. I have not shopped there as I get meat from Andronico, produce from a CSA farm, and packaged goods from Costco. Spouse goes to Safeway at the beach because parking has always been badly designed on Seventh Avenue.

  15. KC said:

    What does TJs have against the outer richmond? I mean, come on now, it would be perfect in that location!

  16. Leanne said:

    I really hope this store doesn’t close down. :( I love F&E and will miss their unique products…Malt Vinegar Chips, mince meat & mango chutney.

    It’s interesting to me, for all the people who fought against the store opening it sure has been busy despite their resistance. I really hope Tesco can keep this location open!

  17. Serge said:

    Tesco won’t abandon the lease. They have at least a 10 year lease with options (that they would obviously not exercise if they want to leave). Their best bet is to turn the lease over to someone else.

  18. Maria Lenhart said:

    From what I’ve read, Tesco does not pay their employees well and rarely lets anyone work full-time, so they have to work two or three jobs to get by. Trader Joe’s, Safeway and Target are better in this regard. I, for one, do not like “humanless” check-out stations. Trade Joe’s would be the one store that could do well in this location and, unlike the one on Masonic, would have ample parking.

  19. ALY said:

    I would love a TJ there. Maybe we should write to them?
    I tried FE a few times, but mostly produce I wanted was not very fresh, including greenish meats; prices were not better than other places, and I really cannot stand humanness check-outs. There has been some picketing too. Not a very wholesome addition to the neighborhood.

  20. Boots Whitmer said:

    The general anti-business attitude in SF in general and for this site in particular has made attracting decent groceries to it very difficult. Neighborhood opposition has been very obnoxious and vicious. No wonder TJ or Whole Foods or any other decent grocery wants no part of it and why we are getting a bottom-of-the-barrel place to go in where Cala left. F&E was completely out of the California mainstream. Not locally sourced, plastic-wrapped, dismal fruit and vegetables. Store staff were poorly trained and not helpful. Even though it is the closest store to my residence, I tried it a few times and gave up because the quality was so poor. Much better fresh stuff at the 25th Avenue Market. Have to drive clear to Laurel Village for decent fish and meat. This neighborhood is badly underserved because too many neighbors don’t connect their anti-business attitudes to the reality on the ground that the thin-margin grocery business is very difficult WITHOUT neighborhood opposition. I can’t blame them for not wanting to locate to that site. I blame Jake Murdoch and his ilk.

  21. dasdfasdfasdas said:

    TESCO F&E is no great thing. it’s a lousy halfassed grocery store that doesn’t care about its employees OR customers, as evidenced in a million different ways. Fuck em, get a real grocery store in there please

  22. GrowUp said:

    dasdfasdfasdas: Care to explain? Would you rather have 5,000 plus US employees and their contractors go out of work?

    The store offers coupons and incentive to shop there through their rewards program. Before F&E that space was a wasteland for a number of years.

  23. sean p said:

    “What’s it mean for our store?” Really? Are we writing in Pigeon English now?

  24. Amerkiwi said:

    The meat here tasted like that ammonia treated beef ugh, thats why I stopped shopping here and then they took away the lobster mac n cheese!

  25. BigHeart said:

    Pigeon? As in “squab?” Or pidgin as in language?

  26. What if WALMART took over the Fresh & Easy on 32nd Avenue? | Richmond SF Blog said:

    [...] & Easy Neighborhood Markets are not doing well for their parent company, Tesco, and as a result, the UK conglomerate is looking for a way to unload their 200 [...]

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