Published on: April 8, 2008
Responding to our ongoing coverage of Tesco’s Fresh & Easy stores in the US, MNB
user Steve Gullihur wrote:My wife and I were in Las Vegas 2 weeks ago and finally got to go into a Fresh & Easy store. I purposely said nothing and waited for my wife's opinion. She walked in, stopped, and just looked around for a solid minute or 2.
She immediately saw the combination of Trader Joe's, Whole Foods meets Costco. We walked the whole store, she really liked it, and said she would definitely shop there, and the prices were excellent.
We bought some raw almonds among other things, and they were fresher than Costco or Trader Joes. The associate at the front end was very friendly and expressed her happiness at working for Tesco.
Now my wife is eagerly anticipating store openings in our area (Fresno, CA).
On the other side of the argument, one MNB
user wrote:Kevin, I continue to believe that you are focusing a disproportionate amount of time in assessing Fresh & Easy. I've been in the business a long time and I think it's time to stop giving Tesco the benefit of the doubt here just because they are 'Tesco'. Even the good companies like H-E-B and Wegman have stubbed their toes numerous times. It happens. The difference here is that Tesco went 'all in' on this concept and, frankly, it is lousy! The format is boring, the private label fresh items are not compelling, and the American consumer finds the store irrelevant. This concept is a full-fledged, 100% disaster. Move over Webvan and make way for Fresh & Easy...RIP!
In yesterday’s MNB
, I suggested that “at some level, I think that the conversation about Fresh & Easy has to change. I think we all have to cut down on the speculation about whether or not it will succeed, because we haven't seen the format yet that will enable long-term success for Fresh & Easy. (That will come with the 2.0 and 3.0 stores that Tesco eventually opens.) But what we really have to talk about is the future of small-store format, and what kinds of permutations it may take as other retailers experiment with the form. And I think we’re going to see a lot more companies testing the concept, and reshaping it into new forms.”
Which led MNB
user Tony Moore to write:What - do you own stock in Tesco? "The conversation..... has to change"? Like your newsletter but the tone on this smacks of arrogance or lover's desperation.
I've only been in one Tesco, but I got a bad vibe. I thought I was in a cleaned up Aldi's that couldn't decide if it was a box store or a Whole Foods. Just don't think you can be all of the above. Tesco might succeed, but they again they might fail. Not sure why you can't concede they could fail.
To start with, I must say that my definition of “lover’s desperation” is different from yours. Either that, or you had a lot less desperate youth than I did.
That said, I’m not sure I’ve ever suggested that they cannot fail. I have said that to underestimate Tesco would be a mistake, because the company’s history is one of a retailer that is both flexible and resilient.
In suggesting yesterday that the conversation needs to change, though, I actually was trying to suggest that Fresh & Easy’s success or failure may be irrelevant, at least in the big picture. The small-store concept that it is trying to make work is already prompting other retailers to look at small stores as a viable alternative – Wal-Mart will open a new one this summer, and I think we’re all looking forward to see what the Bentonville Behemoth does to top the Fresh & Easy entries.
Progress is all about innovation, and innovation is all about progress. They require both ingenuity and momentum, and I think we’re seeing this happen in the small store segment.
had a story yesterday about reports that Starbucks is testing self-service in some of its stores, which prompted a number of responses.MNB
user Dave Tuchler wrote:If true, seems like a wrong move to me. I can get self-serve coffee of remarkably variable- -usually bad -- quality anywhere (convenience stores, hotel lobbies, etc) and it does not increase my expectation that the coffee has been labored over and is fresh and of high quality (rather the opposite). Maybe more importantly, the image that self-serve conjures, to me anyway, is of a company trying to speed up the line and crank up efficiency - which is counter to what seems to be Starbuck's desired image - a company that is obsessed with coffee and serves every cup as if it were the most important thing that happened that day. There needs to be some magical element in the process that helps justify premium pricing -- and self-serve would remove a lot of the mystique.
user Paul Schlossberg offered:It's easy to see why they're testing it. This takes the drip coffee drinker through the line faster. The baristas have a little less pressure on them - to deal with the more complicated prep items – the beverages with higher prices and, no doubt, higher margins.
It's the same concept as self-serve soft drinks for fast food customers. In both cases, it allows the counter service team to serve more people in a fixed time period. That's critical in peak volume rushes.
Starbucks sells coffee. Being a better user of customer time is a great idea for Starbucks and any other retail (or service) provider.
I've sat in a Starbucks a few weeks ago at 10:30 am on a Saturday. I was early for a nearby appointment. I got my coffee while the line was only three deep. When I sat down, I timed the line. It was nine people deep at one point. I noticed that some of those folks waited well over five minutes.
I suggested yesterday that one idea Starbucks might test is giving lessons to consumers in how to make espresso drinks.
user wrote:Wow, I have been thinking the same thing for a long time. I think that would be a GREAT idea! It might turn more people onto those kinds of drinks also if they don’t know already exactly what latte or espresso is.
user Jonathan Lepisto responded:If a tip jar is involved in this new self-service, will the customer be entitled to a share of the proceeds? 🙂
Liked your idea on latte and espresso classes. They already sell the beans and many of the other items that go along with home brewing. It seems like an obvious tie-in.
We had a piece yesterday about UPS saving money and energy by mandating that its truck drivers only make right turns whenever possible.
user responded:I read your postings this morning with a grin. The note that UPS now makes more right turns and finds it makes them more efficient harkens me back to the days of my youth. You see, I learned how to drive in Los Angeles (the valley actually, yes that "valley") and we always learned that in L.A. "3 rights = a left" and that most of the time that was the faster way to go. Maybe it was also that I learned to drive in a '65 bug with 40 horsepower and it really couldn't get out of its own way. Really, Kudos to UPS for thinking outside of the box....
Reminds me of a line from Lawrence Kasdan’s under-appreciated “Grand Canyon” (1991), in which Kevin Kline, teaching his son how to drive on the streets of Los Angeles, says “This is difficult stuff. Making a left turn in L.A. is one of the harder things you'll learn in life.”
(Interesting side note – the son was played by a then-unknown Jeremy Sisto, who now plays one of the detectives on “Law & Order.” But I digress…)
On the subject of what is laughingly referred to as “home incarceration” for former Wal-Mart vice chairman Tom Coughlin, who reportedly is going to parties as a way of fulfilling the community service portion of his sentence, one MNB
user wrote:If he wasn't so rich he'd be in jail now, regardless of how sick he might be. And you and I would be footing the bill for his health care.
The logical -- and one might argue, the just -- thing to do would be to incarcerate him and charge him for his health care. But then again it seems that at times the justice system is neither logical nor just.
I’ve said several times – and repeated yesterday – that as a NY Mets fan, I hate the Atlanta Braves. Which led one MNB
user to object to my choice of words and emotions:There's only one thing I hate... and it's the word "Hate". And I'm sure you know, hate and fear are the same emotion. You must truly fear the Braves! Now I'm no Braves fan, I'm no Mets fan (I'm a life long Phillies fan).
Regardless, wouldn't we all be better off in every aspect of life by simply rooting for our own chosen "team" to prosper rather than introducing and perpetuating the very divisive "Me vs. You" mentality. I know, it's only a game... but far too often this discourse leads to a great deal of needless arguing and fighting. Win or lose... you will find that rooting for your team (or social issue... or religion... or politician.... you get the point) to do well while respecting the other guy leaves you feeling better than harboring some silly resentment. Oh yeah.... GO PHIL'S!!
You make a good and politically correct point.
The fact is that I do fear the Braves. There isn’t a time when the Mets go up against them that I don’t expect that somehow they will figure out how to beat my team. And I respect the Braves – any fan of the game has to respect the team’s winning tradition, the accomplishments of manager Bobby Cox, and the enduring excellence of people like John Smoltz.
That said, I hate the Braves. Hate ‘em.
The same way that Brooklyn Dodger fans hated the New York Giants. The same way that Boston Red Sox fans hate the New York Yankees.
And that’s okay. Respect and hate are not necessarily mutually exclusive emotions.