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Months before it opens the doors of its first Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market stores in the United States, Tesco is using a website to permit consumers to get a peek at its philosophy and culture.

In essence, Tesco is telling future and potential shoppers that it will be focused on healthy, high-quality fresh and pre-prepared foods with a big emphasis on private label…that it intends to be an environment-minded good neighbor with a local focus despite its British lineage…and that it will be a great place to work (with the subtext being that union membership won’t be required for employees to be paid well and have room for advancement).

At the same time, CEO Sir Terry Leahy has described himself as “increasingly encouraged” about prospects for success in the US, enough so that the company has decided to triple its start-up investment to $130 million (US). "We are expanding quickly so we are going to be opening up and having the carrying costs of quite a lot of stores as we get going," Leahy said in a conference call.

Some expectations are that Tesco could open as many as 300 stores within a year. Southern California, Arizona and Nevada have been tagged as the initial markets, but that doesn’t mean Tesco hasn’t identified sites in other locations as well.

Leahy also said in the conference call that the company’s commitment to environmental issues would serve it well, especially in California, noting that “it's well timed as California reassesses its consumption in the light of climate change and people in the United States are looking are looking for an alternative to big box retailers.”

Talking about the new website, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market CEO Tim Mason said in a prepared statement, "As we prepare to open stores in neighborhoods throughout the West, we are excited to provide consumers with a tool to learn more about Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market and the opportunities that will be coming into their communities later this year.”

However, specific locations and opening dates are not posted on the site, suggesting that Tesco has not quite given up on its penchant for well-timed secrecy.

Among the statements made on the site:

• “We're here to create value for our customers and earn their lifetime loyalty.”

• “We believe in treating people the way we'd like to be treated: that's why nobody tries harder than we do for our customers.”

• “We think that high-quality food should be accessible and affordable in every neighborhood….Smaller than the usual supermarket, our 10,000 sq ft shops will be easily accessible and offer everything from everyday staples to gourmet items. Lots of fresh and delicious food choices, including pre-prepared and organic foods, will make healthy eating convenient and affordable. In particular, our own fresh&easyTM line of products will have no added trans fat and no artificial colors or flavors. The simple packaging and labels on our private brand will help you see exactly what you’re bringing home - real food you can trust.

• “We're a neighborhood market, so it only makes sense that we care about our neighbors and our environment…From solar panels to recycling to specially engineered refrigeration systems, we're doing everything we can to reduce emissions, use energy efficiently, and be environmentally responsible in all our facilities and operations. For example in our stores we’re using LED lighting wherever possible and implementing modified freezers and refrigerators that will cut energy use, and at our distribution center we'll have the largest solar panel roof installation in California. In addition, we'll continually work to reduce, reuse and recycle our display and transit packaging…

“That's why we'll be keeping our stores, parking lots, and backyards clean and tidy, and our deliveries will be scheduled to minimize noise and disruption. We'll also be recruiting our staff from the local area and providing each of our stores with a budget for local product donations. Because good neighbors look after each other.”

• “People who are valued are better able to value other people, so creating a rewarding workplace is very important to us.

“We think that growth opportunities, flexibility, rewards, and treating people with respect are key to a positive workplace. We use a team-based approach, offer good salaries and benefits, and work together to create a friendly, positive environment. We provide quality training and are an equal opportunity employer.

“We're looking for people who can work well in a team and understand that it's important to offer the friendliest shopping experience along with the freshest foods.”
KC's View:
It probably just a coincidence that this site has gone live even as Southern California’s three major chains – Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons – are still trying to negotiate a new contract with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).

And it probably is just a coincidence that the site appears as the increasingly unscrupulous UFCW tries to accuse Tesco of intentionally selling alcohol to minors in its efforts to slow down whatever momentum the British retailer may have.

Coincidence.

Could it also be a coincidence that for the first time in some 15 years, currency exchange rates that gotten to the point where one British pound is equal to two American dollars?

Perhaps not. After all, we did report earlier this week that Leahy has been named the UK’s most influential non-elected person…