Tesco's Fresh & Easy Enjoying Fruits of Its Summer of Enhancements

Last Updated Sep 29, 2009 7:59 PM EDT

Fresh & Easy has had a busy summer, as the evidence of its revised website suggests, not to mention a slew of new product introductions and resort to old as well as new media.

Revised has a two-fold meaning in this case. On the one hand, the Tesco-owned chain has given its main site an upgrade, not only making it more colorful and interactive but, as spokesman Brendan Wonnacott noted, focusing the content more firmly on the critical messages the retailer wants to convey. On the home page, four rotating screens highlight critical elements of the Fresh & Easy brand promise: quality, assortment, customer service and price. The retailer has shifted position in the recession from hip to helpful, promising to aid families and even down at the heels singles survive the recession with a little style. Fresh & Easy, clearly in nothing more than an attempt to highlight its own position by contrast, even references Whole Foods in a title on one of the rotator pages that reads: Wholesome food, not whole paycheck.

Hopefully John Mackey's sense of humor is intact. The other element in the web revision is the addition of the Spanish-language site. Just launched, it seems to be part of a larger recognition that Fresh & Easy is proving popular with Latinos.

New product introduction has been another major initiative at the chain, with many of the items launched based on feedback from customers who, Wonnacott said, are expressing more interest in fulfilling their everyday shopping needs at Fresh & Easy, a store originally conceived as a bit more of a convenience destination. Among the product lines added based on customer suggestion, he notes, is Guerrero Tortillas, a brand that prides itself on its authenticity and adherence to Mexican food traditions.

In all, Fresh & Easy added about 1,000 items over the summer, mostly private label and including beauty care, and with a bargain orientation. A big hit was private label Mother's Joy corn flakes which "within two weeks of its introduction wound up outselling the national brand three to one," Wonnacott said.

Although some editing occurred as new products came into the chain's range of selections, the total count of items carried rose to 4,700.

To accommodate additional frozen foods, Fresh & Easy added more coffin cases, but these had sliding doors to keep the cold in and the energy use low. From the start, Fresh & Easy has taken an environmental position, including green elements in both the new and existing facilities it has developed.

This month, its efforts were rewarded with gold certification for its first LEED store. Although the location, in Cathedral City, Calif., was the first recognized by the Green Building Council under its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design initiative, the retailer has been heavily involved with the organization. It is working to help it develop the planned Volume Certification Program, one that is establishing standards that retailers can apply to multiple facilities. Currently, the GBC certifies one facility at a time under the LEED program, and Wonnacott said other Fresh & Easy stores are under consideration for the acknowledgment.

Back on the media front, a lesser element of Fresh & Easy's web site update was to create easier access to social networking links reaching Blogger.com, Twitter, flickr and YouTube. And media is on the retailer's mind. In fact, it has just launched its first major broadcast â€" but not television -- media campaign.

"Now that we have 126 stores, we have that mass that can do broadcast advertising: radio, billboards, bus shelters," Wonnacott said. Those can be found through the geographies Fresh & Easy serves, including not only the core southern California market but Las Vegas and Arizona as well.