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Fresh & Easy 'likely' To Sell or Close All Their Stores

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Inside a Fresh & Easy store in South Los Angeles (Lindsay William-Ross/LAist)
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It hasn't been easy for grocery chain Fresh & Easy to make a go of things in the U.S Market. Backed by British parent company Tesco, the first stores opened in California in 2007, and though they've had surges of openings (and some closings) the El Segundo-based business has held on. Now it seems the end is near.

Tesco is "ready to sell or close" all 199 Fresh & Easy stores, reports LA Biz Observed, following Tesco CEO Philip Clarke talking candidly to the Wall Street Journal about the business' unsuccessful $1.6 billion attempt to win the hearts and dollars of American grocery shoppers.

"It's likely, but not certain, that our presence in America will come to an end," Clarke said.

Timing was part of the issue, with the real estate market troubles peaking, and the recession. But the whole concept is really what many shoppers didn't like: Smaller stores, the Fresh & Easy house brand, self-checkout and bagging, and a smaller selection (including far fewer U.S. brand name items) than at big-box grocery stores.

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Though the chain did listen to consumers and over the years expanded their product base, offering more prepared meals and more brand name products, many who had made a visit to a Fresh & Easy early on never bothered to go back to see the improvements.

There are Fresh & Easy devotees who love the store's specialty products, discount coupons, and "Friends" loyalty program. Those fans will likely learn the fate of the chain soon, as Tesco either sells the chain to another operator or simply closes the stores down.