Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming!

And I say, "Great." What I'm talking about is a brand new grocery store chain from England called Fresh & Easy that has landed in the U.S. Their first store just opened in Los Angeles recently. I read about it in an article by Bruce Horovitz for USA Today on AOL Money. It sounds like a great concept. They are offering quality food at low prices. This means fewer choices for shoppers. Why would I prefer a grocery store with fewer options, you ask? Well, that isn't the main reason I am cheering for them. I am glad to hear that these stores have wider aisles -- wide enough to fit 3 carts at once. On a recent visit to a very large local grocery store, I could barely get through each aisle. The store was super-crowded on a Monday night! Unfortunately, they keep the aisles packed with carts full of food that needs to be stocked and displays.

Fresh & Easy is also offering produce that is wrapped and date-stamped. Can you imagine that? I would love to be able to go into a grocery store and buy food that was within its use by or sell by date. I couldn't ever have come up with the idea of a use by or sell by date for produce. That is just amazing. I am forever buying produce that lasts a day or less in my house. No, I don't mean that we eat it that quickly. I mean it goes bad that fast. (I haven't tried those new green grocery storage bags yet.)

Another great idea -- no nasty cashiers -- Fresh & Easy has only self-checkouts.

So far, it seems as though the folks in LA are a bit confused as to what Fresh & Easy is because of its simple design and layout. I guess if a grocery store isn't "designer" the folks out there won't shop at it? I will definitely stop at a Fresh & Easy store if I ever see one in my travels. It looks fab to me. Maybe they should have opened their first store on the east coast, instead.

Here is the quote from the USA Today article that has me excited:

"Other Fresh & Easy features:

--Natural products. Fresh & Easy brand items have no added preservatives, artificial flavors, colors or trans fats. Eggs are from cage-free chickens; milk does not contain the growth hormone rbST.

--Low prices. An analysis by TNS Retail Forward found the total for a basket of eight Fresh & Easy products beat market chain Vons by 30%, Albertsons by 32% and Ralphs by 23%.

--Produce expiration dates. Fruits and veggies are mostly locally sourced - and come wrapped in plastic trays with expiration dates. The packaging, however, pleases some shoppers and seriously bugs others.

--Limited inventory. Fresh & Easy sells about 3,500 items vs. 60,000 at a typical supermarket.--Low shelves. You can see from one end of the store to the other.

--No loyalty cards. No swiping cards for the price breaks.

--Wide aisles. Aisles are wide enough for three carts to pass.

--All self-checkout. To cut costs, there are no cashiers.

--Limited advertising. The chains buy no TV or newspaper ads. When it enters a market, it mails $5 coupons to area residents.

--Green design. Stores are designed to use 30% less energy than typical grocery stores its size, and recycling is a priority.

--Show the food. Most Fresh & Easy brand products are packaged so shoppers can see what's inside.

--Wine guru. The chain employs an accredited Master of Wine (one of 265 in the world)."

When is Fresh & Easy coming to my neck of the woods, I ask?! Before I'm too old to care, I hope.