General Merchandise

Fresh & Easy to Keep Name

But changes in hours, promotional strategy coming, while Mason expresses regrets

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Changes are underway at Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Inc., but those changes do not include the chain's name, according to a report by The Orange County Register.

Yucaipa Fresh & Easy

The small-format supermarket chain, now owned by Ron Burkle's private equity firm The Yucaipa Cos., has expanded its store hours to 6:00 a.m. to midnight every day, the company announced in an email blast to customers; starting Dec. 30, most stores in Nevada will be open 24 hours, according to the chain's website. Markets will also be open on Christmas and New Year's Day.

When Yucaipa took ownership of 167 Fresh & Easy stores last month, the company said customers will see more competitive pricing, improved hours, fresher foods and assisted checkout.

Because Burkle controls the Wild Oats brand (with former 7-Eleven CEO Jim Keyes, who has been tapped to serve as CEO of the new Fresh & Easy), many industry insiders have speculated that he might convert the stores under that natural foods name, said the report. But Fresh & Easy spokesperson Brendan Wonnacott told the newspaper that Yucaipa is sticking with the Fresh & Easy name.

He also said customers will notice fewer coupons in the mail.

"We're shifting to providing greater value throughout the shopping trip, not just money off at the checkout," Wonnacott said.

Meanwhile, the Tesco PLC veteran who spreadheaded the supermarket giant's bid to crack the U.S. market insists the venture could have been successful and wishes he had been given more time to prove it.

Tim Mason told The Daily Telegraph he understood the reasons why Tesco decided to pull out a year ago, a decision which lead to him leaving the business after 30 years.

But he hit back at criticism of the Fresh & Easy chain he began setting up in 2006, which eventually cost Tesco £1.5 billion.

"Fresh & Easy was a great idea, and people who worked there, and the customers who went there, loved it. In different economic circumstances, I'm very sure it could have been a success," he told the paper. "Yes, I would have liked more time ... but I couldn't have expected longer given the global circumstances that Tesco found itself in."

Click here to read the full Telegraph report.

Also, the California Grocers Association has elected Mary Kasper, current senior vice president, general counsel and secretary of the Fresh & Easy, as chairman for 2014.

Fresh & Easy, with headquarters in El Segundo, Calif., opened its first stores in Nov. 2007 and has 200 locations in California, Nevada and Arizona.

Los Angeles-based Yucaipa is a major investment firm that has established a record of fostering economic value through the growth and responsible development of companies. Founded in 1986, the firm has completed mergers and acquisitions valued at more than $30 billion. As an investor, Yucaipa works with management to strategically reposition businesses and implement operational improvements, resulting in value creation for investors.

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