EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market here got smaller this week with the opening of its first Fresh & Easy Express in a densely populated section of Los Angeles.
At 3,000 square feet, the store is less than one-third the size of Fresh & Easy’s standard 10,000-square-foot model, with approximately 2,700 SKUs — about half the 5,500 at its larger stores. The Express store has only five aisles, compared with eight at the larger units.
Fresh & Easy, the U.S. division of United Kingdom-based Tesco, plans to open four more Express locations in Southern California before the company’s fiscal year ends in late February: in Hermosa Beach, Seal Beach, Laguna Niguel and San Pedro. All will be similar to the store that opened last week, Brendan Wonnacott, communications director, told SN.
He said the five stores will serve as a test of the smaller format. Fresh & Easy is not abandoning the 10,000-square-foot model but would like the option of a smaller store to give it more flexibility in selecting sites, he noted. “The size is a function of finding the locations and getting stores into neighborhoods we want,” he explained.
The first Express store — on La Cienega Boulevard and 18th Street — is located at a corner location on a heavily traveled street in what was formerly a car dealership, in an area marked by a lot of homes and apartments.
“This is a great example of the kind of area in which to locate an Express store,” Wonnacott said, “because the La Cienega corridor is a tough area in which to find space for a full-sized Fresh & Easy.”
The store offers only 22 parking spaces, compared with about 70 at most standard Fresh & Easys, “but this is a very walkable neighborhood with a lot of foot traffic, which fits the Express model,” he pointed out.
Store hours will run from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. — slightly longer than the regular 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. at most Fresh & Easy stores, “but the hours for the Express stores will be determined on a store-by-store basis, to accommodate the needs in each area,” Wonnacott explained.
As with all Fresh & Easy stores, pricing at the Express units will vary, depending on the market and location, he said.
Asked to compare the Express format here with Tesco’s Express format in other countries, Wonnacott said, “It would be like comparing oranges and tangerines. There are similarities, but they are very different.”
For the Express stores here, “we started with the Fresh & Easy concept and then took it smaller,” he explained. “The fresh food assortment, especially the grab-and-go offering, is similar in size to what the larger stores offer, though the number of facings are reduced and the shelving is not as deep.”
In other categories, selections have been edited more extensively, he said, with quantities of specific items expected to differ from store to store, based on local demographics, he added.
Features at the first store include:
• Fresh prepared foods on a two-sided 48-foot island display just inside the store’s entryway, rather than on the back wall at the larger stores.
• Other grab-and-go items in a 20-foot section along the wall opposite the island display, encompassing soft drinks, energy drinks and water; fresh-packed salads, sandwiches and sushi; and packaged produce, including the company’s 98-cent specials on selected items.
• Bulk produce offerings on an 8-foot display across from the wall unit.
• Refrigerated meats in a 16-foot sliding-door case, including fresh beef, chicken and seafood — priced at Fresh & Easy’s everyday price of $2.49 a pound — along with sausages, bacon and hot dogs.
• A bakeoff bakery, operated as part of a partnership with Il Fornaio, Corte Madera, Calif., a chain of Italian restaurants that also operates wholesale bakeries. Located in the corner along the back wall, the section includes 12 feet of packaged goods and 8 feet of fresh breads, croissants and other items made at the store.
• A 20-foot dairy case on the back wall featuring the same assortment of national brands and Fresh & Easy products as the larger stores but in a narrower assortment.
• An 8-foot deli case on the side wall, adjacent to a 16-foot chilled wine and beer case. Opposite the chilled wines are 12 feet of non-chilled wines on a standard gondola, offering a selection of mostly exclusive products to Fresh & Easy.
• A 10-foot frozen food case along the same wall.
• A self-service coffee bar — on the concourse at the front of the store — operated in a partnership with Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, which is slated to be at all Express stores.
• Five self-service checkstands along the front concourse.
• A magazine rack and small floral offering on the other side of a low wall that separates the shopping area of the store from the checkstands.
• A Center Store section with edited assortments of groceries, paper goods, snacks and health and beauty care items.