Fresh & Easy Observations: Assortment Seen As Too Limited

Jim Prevor, an industry consultant based in Boca Raton, Fla., expressed a harsh opinion of Tesco's Fresh & Easy stores in the U.S. Most consumers would notice that all the products they're used to are not there, in part because Tesco has decided not to carry a lot of American brands, he said. For the typical American consumer, that impacts the conventional proposition that if a store doesn't carry

Jim Prevor, an industry consultant based in Boca Raton, Fla., expressed a harsh opinion of Tesco's Fresh & Easy stores in the U.S.

“Most consumers would notice that all the products they're used to are not there, in part because Tesco has decided not to carry a lot of American brands,” he said. “For the typical American consumer, that impacts the conventional proposition that if a store doesn't carry an item you want, you need to go to another store.”

The limited assortment is also a problem, he said. “It's hard to know to what degree individual items will motivate people, but if you want to become a consumer's regular supermarket instead of a top-off experience, it might require a more extensive assortment.

“And without a service deli with hot foods, there's a disconnect between the American notion of freshness and what Fresh & Easy offers.”

With all fresh produce being packaged, “consumers may be compelled to purchase too large a quantity,” Prevor said. “For some large Hispanic families, for example, the packages are too small, so they may have to buy several to get the amount they need.”

He said Americans may also have been “taken aback” by the notion that the stores don't accept checks or, until recently, credit cards, “nor do they take manufacturer coupons, which interferes with the value proposition for many shoppers.”

On price, Fresh & Easy claims to be 20% lower than conventional supermarkets, Prevor indicated, but based on his own produce price comparisons, “I'm not sure that's true,” he said.

Prevor said he bought one of every produce item at Fresh & Easy, then bought the same quantity of each item at a Vons Pavilions nearby. The items cost $114.59 at Fresh & Easy and $119.17 at Vons, he said, “so the difference was inconsequential.

“However, the products were not truly comparable, because at Pavilions you could get branded items from Chiquita, Dole, Del Monte and Sunkist, whereas Fresh & Easy offered only no-name items.”

He also argued that Fresh & Easy might not actually be more convenient than larger stores. “With high gas prices, more people want one-stop shopping, so I question the convenience these smaller stores offer,” Prevor said.