PLEASANTON, Calif. — Safeway here said yesterday it is always looking for "good, solid real estate opportunities, and we recognize there are always a variety of shopping experiences that customers are looking for." However, a spokeswoman told SN the chain would not comment on reports it is seeking real estate in Northern California to accommodate a 20,000-square-foot store format. "We don't discuss possible real estate acquisitions until we are ready to announce something," she said. Published reports said Safeway is interested in finding sites for five stores of 20,000 square feet each in the San Jose area — possibly to experiment with a small-format store before Tesco begins expanding its 10,000-square-foot Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets in the Bay Area. Reports said Safeway has hired Cornish & Carey Commercial, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based real estate brokerage with an office here, to find small-store locations. Officials at Cornish & Carey could not be reached for comment. Steve Burd, Safeway chairman, president and chief executive officer, said in September his company was ready to open smaller-format stores if necessary. "If the small-store format works," he said, "we think we could do that, and probably do it more effectively [than Tesco] simply bcause we're a well-known brand in the market." Burd said Safeway would wait till the Tesco stores opened — the first ones opened in early November — "so before year's end we'll know exactly what they're offering and how we'll respond."
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