Fresh & Easy: Five Reasons Why It Failed Here

Analysts and readers both have a list of criticisms of the British retailer with 200 stores in the western United States

It appears Fresh & Easy stores will either close or start operating under a new name soon.

Tesco, the British company that owns Fresh & Easy, announced this week it is looking for a buyer for its American enterprise. If the company doesn't find one, it will close the 200 stores it has in California, Arizona and Nevada.

The numbers right now aren't pretty.

According to a fresheasybuzz blog, Fresh & Easy stores had shown a 12 percent growth in year-to-year "like to like" sales in April. However, in the third quarter, that growth has fallen to less than 2 percent.

Only 20 percent of Fresh & Easy stores are profitable and the ones making money are barely in the black. Thirty stores have reduced operating hours and 24 have closed since the first Fresh & Easy opened in the Southern California mountain town of Hemet in 2007. That original store is one of the 24 that shut down.

Tesco is the number one retailer in England. So, why did its American venture fail?

A report on msn.com lists a host of reasons. Among them are not offering coupons, a name that sounds like a sanitary product, its cold decor, selections such as herbed lamb cuts and a lack of American staples such as Oreos and Doritos at reasonable prices.

The article says the American supermarket industry is extremely competitive and Fresh & Easy simply didn't give people enough reason to switch stores.

Not everybody dislikes Fresh & Easy stores. On a Patch story this week on the pending closures, there were 42 comments. Of those, 14 specifically said they liked the stores while 10 said they didn't.

A sampling of some of the complaints.

Lindy wrote, "...the self check out makes for a negative shopping experience. I ALWAYS have to find someone to come and help me at the Fresh & (not so) Easy check-out for one reason or another. When I go to any other store that has both options I always choose the checker. It give people jobs and it keeps things sane."

Catherine Grans wrote, "We tried it, but it wasn't "Fresh." It also wasn't flavorful. It tasted like cardboard."

Randi Starr wrote, "$5.39 for a six pack of pepsi. i walked out today."

There were five complaints that seemed to be common in the stories, blogs and comments on why Fresh & Easy failed in the United States. Here they are.

1) The self-checkout without an option to go to a cashier's line was not popular. One reader noted this was particularly difficult if you have children with you.

2) Produce selection was limited and of low quality. This was particularly true with the shrink-wrapped produce. In fact, the pre-packaged meats weren't that popular either.

3) Limited selection in general. Americans are used to large selections at roomy Safeway and warehouse stores.

4) No coupons and not enough marked down prices like you find at Safeway and other stores.

5) The stores seem somewhat sterile and lack the warmth of Trader Joe's or other specialty grocery outlets.

One author summed it up by saying Tesco brought over a British formula that works fine in England but doesn't cut it in the colonies.

maria Billingsley December 08, 2012 at 07:22 PM
I shop at Fresh and Easy because I just feed myself and its a fast way to get in and out. But for a family it does not work. They should have positioned their stores near convenience stores. F&E is basically an elaborate 711. I will miss it very much!
JClark927 December 08, 2012 at 07:35 PM
I decided not to shop there when I saw they had special parking places for hybrid cars ;) I mean, what about special places for new moms, veterans and a long list of other more saintly people?
Triple Canopy December 08, 2012 at 10:06 PM
I think part of the reason is the store's interior isn't friendly... it feels empty and void like a jail cell (No, I've never been jailed). The workers also seem to lack interpersonal skill.
Philip Wesler December 09, 2012 at 03:50 AM
I first went there in the first week after opening. I used the motorized cart, and found the steering wasn't fully working. I showed it to the manager, and showed him that a simple operation with a pair of pliers would solve the problem. He said he'd do it right away. I returned many months later, and the steering had never been fixed. I will not miss that store, on Ignacio Blvd.
Sue Graham December 09, 2012 at 06:23 AM
I do not even live near a Fresh & Easy but it is wonderful! I have found their produce excellent, something I have not seen at TJs or Safeway, the product looks good but tasts like garbage. I have switched how and where I grocery shop - so many others could benefit from the excellent products they have.
mike cody December 09, 2012 at 08:59 AM
the workers ther sem like robots and kind of have that look on their face like"no way this will ever last"
mike cody December 09, 2012 at 09:09 AM
the workers sem like emotionless robots with a look like"this could never last" on their 1000 mile stare,the only thing worse is waiting for this website to load and all it stupid fluff that takes forever to actually let you type a comment talk about fail,concord patch is low quality
srl99 December 09, 2012 at 09:16 AM
(Depends on location) they DO have special spaces for families. By the way - is there a Mercedes E350 Hybrid? Or are you just pulling your MERC into an open space and parading over to Peet's?
srl99 December 09, 2012 at 09:18 AM
Trader Joe's should buy the locations they need to fill in their map. Since F&E opened, we have used it to replace trips to TJ's.
mike cody December 09, 2012 at 09:49 AM
The Hybrid parking cracked me up,I would park my old vw there,and was just waiting for someone to say'thats not a hybrid',and I dare them to tow or ticket or try to look under a hood to see if people are complying,they are trying to imply those that care about nature shop at their store.The parking spots go untouched out of fear,and tey are an inconvienience to the rest of the lot
mike cody December 09, 2012 at 09:52 AM
Not that their stuff is so fresh,but they are quick to mark it down when its not Should be called"easy and sometimes fresh"Hard to get a salad not going brown
lisa December 09, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Actually, all of the supermarkets in Ireland/England do have "family/moms" parking spaces. Much more civilized, thoughtful, and concerned for their fellow man over there though.
lisa December 09, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Fresh and Easy would have done better had they actually been more like Tesco (their parent company). The shops that are here are cold,soulless, and the packaged food is quite disgusting- not at all what you'd find at Tesco. It is, however the only place where I can find rashers...so I guess I better stock up now.
Lisa - Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano December 11, 2012 at 03:40 PM
I am so sad about this. I love my local Fresh & Easy. Having lived in London for a brief time and shopped at Tesco I was excited about the opening of F&E here in America. Other stores expect you to bag your own groceries so why is it a problem here? The quality at F&E is better and honestly I think they have the lowest prices around. I personally like going there with my kid because he either checks out while I bag or vice versa! I love the size of the store -- I find the other larger grocery stores overwhelming now and I usually pay twice as much at the other stores. I really hope my store stays open and not just for selfish reasons (like I want to keep shopping there) but because I have friends who work there and I'd hate for them to be out of work.
nanomole39 December 11, 2012 at 04:45 PM
keep fresh and easy and all the jobs it supports : https://www.change.org/petitions/fresh-and-easy-keep-fresh-and-easy-stores-open
Jane Jerome December 11, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Everytime F&E opens a store, it is picketed by labor unions. Why? Hmmm. Perhaps they don't treat their employees right. Many of us "vote" with our pocketbooks. With no competitive distinction to set Fresh and Easy apart -- products, service, ambience -- it is not a wonder that they are failing in a business notorious for low margins.
nanomole39 December 12, 2012 at 01:49 AM
nanomole39 December 12, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Josh Goldman December 30, 2012 at 09:15 AM
F & E smells as soon as you walk in. The cinammon scent is too much! The temperature is alway cold, even in the winter!! They do have good restrooms. I don't like the workers there, they seem weird and sleazy.
l January 01, 2013 at 10:28 PM
I dont know where the last commenter shopped, but our local F+E is great. The employees are very personable and friendly, and they seem to enjoy working there - I am just guessing this with the way they treat customers, give stickers to kids, are helpful. I also love the quality and variety of food in a relatively small store. The stores seem to save space by not having as much junk food, and selecting a very nice variety of what most people would like. It is somrefreshing that they are not as large as most other grocery stores. I hope they stay the same and that they dont get bought out by Walmart. I would just go back to trader joes and whole foods if that were to happen.
nanomole39 January 01, 2013 at 10:50 PM
please help save fresh and easy :http://www.change.org/petitions/fresh-and-easy-keep-fresh-and-easy-stores-open
Josh Goldman January 02, 2013 at 08:06 AM
Fresh and Easy on Ygnacio Valley Road in Walnut Creek near Sports Basement is aweful! I hope they shut down for good as that store stinks!! The employees are "odd" and make me feel uncomfortable. I prefer Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Sprouts, Safeway, and Nob Hill foods which are much better in quality and lower in price.
Josh Goldman January 02, 2013 at 08:07 AM
I hope Fresh and Easy is replaced by Walmart, that would be a 1000% improvement!
John Hannah January 13, 2013 at 03:05 PM
for those who have had a 'bad' experience @ F&E-DON"T GO THERE. The rest of us like the place and their selection. I AM pleased it is not Walmart, tho I would go if no F&E. Walmart is to crowded, not b'cuzz of their selection (which is nothing but over processed crap that is actually damaging to the bod), but the workers on graveyard are so wrapped up in emptying their pallets and stocking shelves, they sometimes get a bit testy when asked for help, and b'cuzz of the hours, there is always a line, because the co. is notoriuos for being insultingly cheap to their employees. They are just to big to give a damn about us, or the people on the front lines of the stores. Keep the F&E stores, a much better choice. My store doesn't stink!!...tho some customers DO!!!!!!
Josh Goldman January 13, 2013 at 06:11 PM
F & E tried to be like Trader Joes but failed. Trader Joes is a step up from low class FE. FE employees are freaks. I overheard one of them instructing another how to pierce your genitals by yourself. Gross
nanomole39 January 13, 2013 at 07:11 PM
save your local fresh and easy and save 5000 u.s jobs :http://www.change.org/petitions/fresh-and-easy-keep-fresh-and-easy-stores-open
nanomole39 January 13, 2013 at 07:15 PM
your support is needed to save fresh and easy, please sign our petition to save fresh and easy, your support could make all the difference and help keep or local fresh and easy stores - so please sign :http://www.change.org/petitions/fresh-and-easy-keep-fresh-and-easy-stores-open
Mr. Flexibility January 16, 2013 at 12:33 AM
I think hybrid spaces would be okay if there were chargers in those spots so hybrid owners could charge up their cars while they are shopping. Otherwise, I agree with you. What do you think about WalMart offering jobs to any veteran? Shouldn't they hire the person most able to do the job? Aren't they discriminating against all non-veterans?
D Henry January 31, 2013 at 07:37 PM
I have a Fresh and Easy, Safeway and Bel-Air markets, all at a four-way intersection within two miles of my home. Put in a Trader Joe's & Sprout's and I'd be in grocery store heaven. Fresh and Easy is my choice for quick, get in and out in a hurry shopping. Since they've opened I've wondered when they would be closing, The only crowds are around the cooler where the items with the huge mark-downs on their expiration date are stocked. I would definitely miss their house-brand 90 calorie Pomegranate-Dark Cherry fruit bars. I don't buy my produce or meats there, Sprout's gets my vote for those items. I would miss them (for about ten minutes). I just heard about this on their Facebook page, which I follow. One huge gripe is redeeming their rewards card cash, it's a whole process when it could be so simple..
Jack of a Saur August 30, 2013 at 08:35 PM
I'm glad that Mr. Mike Cody posted his harrowing tale on this site. I'm sure he'll be pleased to know that hybrid drivers have reported his Volkswagen to the Walnut Creek police department, the independant tow companies, and is now on the nsa's federal watch list. Wonderful job, sir. You truly make the world a better place.


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