Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets' Grand Openings Tomorrow in Southern California

Tomorrow is D-Day for British retailer Tesco, as it officially opens its first six Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets in Southern California. The anticipation is heavy, and the stakes are high.

After months of anticipation (except for those of us who've been to the Hemet store which opened about a week ago) and lots of hype (we plead guilty) British retail giant Tesco will open five Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets in Southern California tomorrow morning at 10:00AM. All six stores will hold grand opening celebrations beginning Thursday morning.

The five stores opening tomorrow are in Los Angeles, Anaheim, West Covina, Arcadia and Upland. (The sixth store, in Hemet, opened a little over a week ago but has its official grand opening tomorrow, along with the other five stores.)

Each store will kick-off a full day of grand opening activity tomorrow beginning at 10:00AM, and running throughout the day and into the evening. There will be food and beverage tastings, contests, promotions and other special events at each store. One promotion Tesco has launched in advance of tomorrow's grand opening in its mass-mailed advertising circular, is a prepared dinner meal deal. Prepared foods are the centerpiece of the Fresh & Easy store's merchandising mix.

The grand opening meal deal is a 25oz beef lasagne, Caesar salad, a loaf of ciabatta bread, and a full bottle of wine. The dinner meal is designed to feed three to four people. The promotional price is $11.49 for the entire meal, which for four people works out to only about $3 per-person. Tesco plans to offer a dinner meal deal like this every week in its advertising circular.

The Anaheim Fresh & Easy above is one of the six stores officially opening tomorrow morning. (courtesy OC Register.)

In addition to the grand opening events at each of the six Fresh & Easy grocery markets, Tesco is holding a party this evening to celebrate the opening of its first Fresh & Easy store in Los Angeles. The store is located in the Glassel Park neighborhood, which is a low-to moderate income area that is underserved by retail food stores, especially those offering fresh foods. Tonights party is a gala affair. It's being hosted by Tesco's London-based CEO Sir Terry Leahy. The members of Tesco's board of directors also are attending.

Numerous Los Angeles-area and California elected officials and other VIP's are invited to the party. Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is attending the gala. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is invited, along with key members of the California legislature from the Los Angeles area, as well as local members of the U.S. Congress, and California's two United States Senators, in addition to numerous other business people and others. We called the governors office but couldn't get an answer regarding whether or not Arnold would be attending the Fresh & Easy party tonight.

There are some uninvited guests attending Tesco's VIP party tonight. Well, they actually aren't attending the party but will be stationed outside. A Los Angeles group called The Alliance For Healthy and Responsible Grocery Stores is holding a press conference titles "No More Broken Promises" outside tonight's party. (Read this for some background on the group.)

At the press conference about 100 Los Angeles community, religious and labor leaders plan to call on Tesco to sign a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) which promises certain labor, environmental and other commitments from the grocer. The group presented this CBA to Tesco some time ago and says they haven't received a response from the retailer as of yet, despite what the group says has been numerous attempts to negotiate an agreement.

The group is comprised of some heavy hitters in Los Angeles' political, labor, faith and community activist circles. Some of the leaders include L.A. City Council Member Jose Huizar, Maria Elena -Durazo, executive secretary-treasure, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, California State Assemblyman Adam Portantino and other representatives from local and state government, L.A's faith community, organized labor and other groups.

The group tells us Los Angeles-area TV stations and newspapers plan on covering the press conference outside of the VIP party. A representative of the coalition told us the group plans to take their message directly to Tesco CEO Sir Terry and the board members, as well as the VIP's attending the party. It should be an interesting evening.

The group also plans to have representatives at each one of the six Fresh & Easy store grand openings beginning early tomorrow morning. The representative said these representatives will be available to talk with shoppers and the media covering the openings about the issues they want Tesco to address as part of doing business in Los Angeles.

These representatives won't be alone in terms of groups in opposition to Tesco. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the union that represents supermarket clerks in Southern California will be picketing outside the six Fresh & Easy stores beginning tomorrow morning, according to a union spokesperson.

Nearly every large supermarket chain, and many independent grocers in Southern California operate union stores. The only exceptions of note are Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Wal-Mart, some smaller independents--and now Fresh & Easy. The union wants Tesco to give its employees the right to organize and join the union if they choose to. Once Tesco gets up and operating it is something they must do in California if store employees ask for a vote. It's the law. The union plans on informing the fresh, new Fresh & Easy employees of this fact (and law) beginning tomorrow morning.

The exterior design of the Anaheim Fresh & Easy above has a much more upscale look than the Hemet store, which opened about a week ago in a "soft opening." (courtesy OC Register.)

Tomorrow's grand openings of the six Fresh & Easy markets in Southern California have received tons of publicity from Southern California media outlets. As such, we expect a strong turnout of shoppers and the just plain curious at the stores tomorrow. Los Angelenos love a premier--be it the opening of a new movie, restaurant or even a grocery store. And with the opposition groups on hand outside the six stores there should be plenty of excitement.

We also know there will be representatives of California retail grocery industry on hand tomorrow--the competition. The Financial Times newspaper wrote the other day that one of its reporters ran into five men wearing suits in the Hemet Fresh & Easy on Monday. They were all with Wal-Mart the reporter found out. We also know a retail grocery industry executive who was in the Hemet Fresh & Easy this morning doing a little recon for his company. Further, one of our industry sources, an executive for a natural foods manufacturing company, ran into an executive from Ralph's Grocery Co. in the Hemet store earlier this week. Ralph's, owned by Kroger Co., is Southern California's largest supermarket chain.

As we all know, the last British invasion of America turned out bad for the Brits. However it was a mass invasion rather than a retail one. In Tesco's case they have done their research and say the grocer is primed for success in the U.S.--first in California, Arizona and Nevada--and perhaps beyond from there. To use a military metaphor, tomorrow is D-Day for Tesco's grocery retailing invasion of America, at least the Western portion of the country, and once the battle is launched, there's no turning back. It should be an interesting ride.

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets Opening Tomorrow:
  • 4211 Eagle Rock Blvd., Los Angeles
  • 3170 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim
  • 1000 W. Covina Parkway, West Covina
  • 133 E. Foothill Blvd, Arcadia
  • 176 S. Mountain Ave., Upland
  • 1709 W. Florida Ave., Hemet

Sidebar: Fresh & Easy Linkage

On the eve of the grand opening tomorrow of the six Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets in Southern California, we thought we would bring you some news from a few other publications in addition to our story above. Here's what a few others are saying:

Tesco lives its California dream [Daily Telegraph,UK]
Tesco in the U.S.? It'll never work [London Times, UK]
Southland debut could be difficult for Fresh & Easy [Los Angeles Times, USA]
Supermarkets won't solve obesity, but bodegas might [Huffington Post, USA]
Tesco poses bold challenge to U.S. retailers says IDG [Talking Retail, UK]
Tesco not going down a riot in Los Angeles [London Times, UK]
The Next British invasion is all about groceries [CNN Money, USA]

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