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Fresh & Easy to Slow U.S. Expansion

LONDON -- After announcing its 100th U.S. store opening last week, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, a division of London-based Tesco plc, revealed it plans to slow its U.S. expansion in light of the economic downturn, according to

Fresh & Easy's Tim Mason, president and CEO, told the Times that the company's plans to expand its chain into northern California could be put on hold.

"The industry is in a very different place than when we came out and did the feasibility research three years ago," he said in the report. "Then, the U.S consumer confidence index was at the highest level it had ever been. In October, the U.S. consumer confidence index was the lowest it has been since 1967, so it's a big change."

Nevertheless, "we will still open stores every week, but it's prudent to slow things down a bit," Mason added.

Tesco had hoped to have 200 Fresh & Easy stores operating across southern California, Arizona, and Nevada by February of next year. Mason now said he hoped to reach that target by next November.

"There's a big cost step for us when we open up northern California, and we can be quite flexible about when we do that," Mason was quoted as saying.

"As things get to a point that we like how it's all coming together, we like the way the stores are growing into the second year, then we can accelerate. If the economy takes a turn for the worst, it would be unwise to accelerate."
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