Fresh & Easy Looking Beyond West Coast?

In his first interview since launching Tesco’s Fresh & Easy stores in California last year, Fresh & Easy CEO Tim Mason told the Financial Times that the chain is thriving despite recent suggestions of poor sales.

Mason told the Financial Times the decision to bring in U.S. resident Jeff Adams as an operations director was about preparing for the future, rather than a signal that the new business was struggling.

“We have always known we will need more executive vice presidents in operations because this country is so big that as soon as we go into a new geography, we will need someone to run it, so we have brought him in a little early,” Mason said.

Mason dropped heavy hints that Adams, the former Tesco chief in Thailand, would be deployed to another part of the U.S., most likely the Chicago or Midwest market, once the 61-strong chain reaches critical mass in California, Nevada and Arizona, the publication reported.

Asked if Tesco would rule out a move beyond the West Coast until after 2012, Mason said: “I wouldn’t say that. We wouldn’t do anything else until we have explained how we are doing here.”

Mason, who unnerved investors and analysts when he “paused” the stores’ rollout in March for three months, admitted that the break “hadn’t always been planned” but said he was “surprised that everyone went mental” on news of the three-month break, the publication reported.

“I was critical of myself, really, because you ought to see these things coming,” Mason said. “I felt that it was just so obviously the right thing to do having opened 60 stores.”

In other news, the Financial Times also reported that Wal-Mart’s Marketside concept will offer more premium products in its smaller-scale format, rather than a low-cost offering.

Wal-Mart’s advertisements say the stores will offer “unique solutions for time-starved consumers in a premium fresh/convenience oriented format,” with the stores focusing on meal solutions.

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