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Fresh & Easy: R.I.P.

We published more than 1,000 pages about Tesco’s ill-starred venture to come to America as Fresh & Easy. We did hundreds of TV spots, radio spots and newspaper, magazine and internet interviews about the effort and why we saw it as destined to fail without a drastic change of direction. We did investor conference calls and keynoted European Retailing Conferences for investment banks

These two pieces sum up the failure:

Twenty Lessons Learned From Tesco’s Fresh & Easy Failure

The Failure Of Tesco’s Fresh & Easy: Diverse Voices And “Deja Vu All Over Again”

We didn’t bother to write much about Yucaipa’s efforts to succeed, because, well, they never really made any efforts. Now they are in Chapter 11 and out of business.

For a brief moment we thought there was a shot. The original plan was for Yucaipa to rebanner the units under its Wild Oats brand. The stores were going to be repositioned as healthy convenience stores. But when the price tag came in for new signage, advertising and whatnot, Yucaipa got cold feet and decided to make incremental improvements.

But the concept was a known loser when they bought it, and, although Tesco paid Yucaipa Cos. about $235 million to take it off their hands, that money wasn’t going to persuade consumers to like a brand they never connected with.

It is a sad story. People hoped to find the next Wal-Mart and aligned themselves with Tesco. And many lost much… even Tesco itself came out limping — its many problems can be traced to a diversion of interest to focus on this venture to conquer America.

There are lessons here, and a book should be written. We know just the guy to write it. But now it is done, and in the great mass of American retailing this most studied retailing adventure will be swallowed up and absorbed among all the disappeared retailers of days past. 

Now we think of her, gone so slowly, yet so suddenly, as was written in The Tragedy of MacBeth:

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.

Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

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