Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fresh & Easy

With the economic downturn there has been a lot of store closures. Not only that, but companies that had planned new stores put a halt to them. A good example is the partially built Sonic Burger over off Truxel in Natomas. A wooden shell of a building unattractively sitting there hoping to be finished.

One of the companies that had big plans for the Sacramento area was a new grocery chain called Fresh & Easy. They are a branch of the British food giant, Tesco, also known as the British Walmart. A couple of years ago they had announced about seven stores for the Sacramento area. I think the first was gonna be in West Sac. Anyway, who knows when they will come to our area now. I also know of them because my ex-husband has them as a client - and they are a big one. I'm sure he'd like to see them come to the area as well.

If you check out their site, they talk about how they think that fresh and healthy should also be affordable. They keep their overhead low by building small stores that are energy efficient and have low staffing. The 'easy' comes from a lot of already packaged meals that are ready to eat or just take a quick zap in the microwave.

Today I got to see my first store in person. And they are different. The stores are small, similar in size to Trader Joe’s, and certainly not glitzy. More of a minimal or simplistic approach to design. There definitely is a lot of prepackaged meals. But Nugget markets also have a lot of prepackaged meals and I would have to say that Nugget's are more appealing in terms of looks and packaging. I can't give you a for-sure on the pricing, but I'd say they are pretty comparable. Like many food companies, they have their own store brand of products. Since I was staying at a friend's vacation house, I chose a couple of the packaged meals for the two days I was there. Finally I went to the checkout lane and was getting in line behind someone else when I realized that there are no cashiers. All of the lanes are self checkout. One guy was hopping between all the lanes and helping or bagging for people - it wasn't very busy in the middle of a weekday morning.

Do we need another grocery chain in Sac? Could they make it in an area that already has plenty of grocery competition? Do they fit an unfilled niche? My personal opinion is that they would need to find underserviced neighborhoods. They certainly would want to steer clear of any Trader Joe’s or Nugget market because those stores have nicer packaging of their meals and more appealing stores. I don’t know. We have our Walmart. Do we really need the Brits bringing in theirs?
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