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PHOENIX-Tesco, the UK-based global retail giant, formally unveiled the name and logo for its long-awaited US retail concept during an event held here by the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. The grocery stores will be called “Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market.”

Units will have approximately 10,000 sf of selling space. Twenty sites in the Greater Phoenix area have already been secured and additional ones are being researched, according to Tim Mason, a Tesco veteran who has been named CEO of Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, based in El Segundo, CA.

Mason tells GSR, “the rollout will begin during the fourth quarter of 2007,” and says, “we’ll open units rapidly, within a few weeks, in all four markets during fourth-quarter.” The other three market areas are Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Mason declined to quantify the number of units that will open this year, but says, “we’ll start with a reasonable number. So far, we’ve reviewed over 300 sites in those areas, and we’re working on a number of them now.”

The units will be located in leased and acquired existing-store units and will also include new construction on land on which the company is taking ground leases for or buying outright, he says. Ideal locations are “on hard corners at major intersections with a neighborhood focus,” which, he adds, “includes taking part in the revitalization of urban neighborhoods.”

When parent Tesco announced its plan to enter the US in September, management said the initial investment here would be approximately $500 million over five years. Mason declined to estimate how many units are planned over the full five years, and says, “that very much depends on how we do. But there will be lots in those markets over the next few years, and, for the moment, we’ll be in just those markets. We’re not looking anywhere else.”

The format “is designed to draw customers back to their local neighborhoods by offering high quality, fresh and nutritious food at affordable prices.” The size is, “intentionally smaller than the usual supermarket in order to give customers a faster, easier shopping experience.”

Asked who the company would be competing with, he says, “anybody who’s competing for food money, mainly supermarkets. People can do an entire week’s shopping in a Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market,” he says, and suggests that while selling gas may have been an initial consideration, “it’s fair to say that we are not having gas stations.

The US concept is modeled after Tesco Express, which, according to the initial Tesco announcement, encompasses 800 stores in five countries. In all, Tesco operates more than 2,800 stores in 12 countries. It is the largest retailer in the UK, and began global expansion in 1995.

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