Friday, January 09, 2009

Fresh and Easy - Year 2

We are now into the second year of Fresh and Easy being part of the landscape around here. We have two locations in our town and one seems to be gaining favor the other is always deserted. But this isn't about the traffic.

I was surprised when I saw Fresh and Easy open their first store here. I wrote a post about it, took some flack, and moved on. I've shopped there for fresh vegetables, even thought they're wrapped in plastic, bought butter and eggs there and the occasional basketful of groceries. I've enjoyed their coupons and bought their water. Still, I have to ask is it going to last.

Last nights visit would say no. They've removed the long wall of produce. Reduced to about half its size. That's not good. Instead of learn that customers really want to choose their produce in loose bins they chose to limit what is sold. Bad idea. I am a customer. I have chosen that less than stellar package of 4 tomatoes, with one obviously bad and the others good. I had no choice - they were all like that. I've noticed the supply dwindling. The fullest shelf in the store was the marked down rack. If you're catering to the marked down crowd you've already lost. Time to step it up.

Gone is the large flower rack. In the beginning I thought this was an interesting addition. I'd seen gorgeous flowers at Trader Joe's, and Central Market. I just didn't think Hemet was ready for it. And they weren't. It has been replaced with the type of rack you find in the everyday Stater Bros here. Everyone competes with Staters. They're like the Russia of grocers here in this town. No one seems to win against them, and they only sell what they want to sell. Nothing that appeals to anything but the masses. No real specialty food items at all. Bit this isn't about them. It's about Fresh and Easy. They seem to be bowing to the pressure of the retail climate here.

Instead of offering more in a down market, they're climbing aboard the less train. I don't get it. Their message was - we're new, we're environmentally concerned, we're European, we know you'll like us. Yet my message to them is you're inconsistent. I can't seem to get the same things I got last time. The fresh vegetable selection is limited. The grab and go used to be quite diverse. No longer, now it's a few varieties of fried chicken wings and a couple of soups and then a bunch of pasta. Disappointing to think I was hoping for something along the lines of a Trader Joe's.

The Tesco mentality has set in. Gone is the creative juice they came with. Yes, it's a down market, but that's when creativity thrives. Go for a walk design team! Run down to TJ's and see how they're doing it. I was in the Temecula store last week and they were packed!!! Don't go to the majors and compete, end run them with good quality unknowns. Go to the Fancy Foods Show and talk to some new suppliers. Buy some good groceries that aren't Kellogs or F&E and begin to be the little store that could!

We want you to win. We want to purchase our groceries from you. We want something new to choose from, but we also want the tried and true. Come on guys - you've got the tenure, now lose some of the stodgy-ness and thrive! And if you need a good consultant to help you do it, I'm available.