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    Fresh & Easy Sees Executive Changes as New Strategy Takes Hold

    CEO to merge customer-related commercial, marketing divisions

    The chief marketing officer at Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Stores is out, and it may be just one change at the company as its parent, U.K. grocer Tesco, retools its strategy for Fresh & Easy.

    Simon Urwins, one of the original team of Tesco executives who broke into the U.S. market five years ago, has left the retailer to pursue other interests, according to a report by the Financial Times.

    Citing an internal communication, the news outlet reported that Tim Mason, CEO of Fresh & Easy, said he was shaking up the El Segundo, Calif.-based retailer, merging the elements of the chain related to customers in its commercial and marketing divisions into one team. As part of the move, the company has appointed John Burry chief customer officer. The move expanded his current duties for commercial and manufacturing to include marketing.

    The changes came six months after Tesco began reformulating its approach to Fresh & Easy, which at the time had rung up $894.9 million in losses since it established a presence in the United States in 2007. The company also reported $112 million in losses in the first half of fiscal year 2011 which ended Aug. 27.

    To turn the tide, Tesco CEO Philip Clarke set out on a course to open new stores in the United States, launching Fresh & Easy’s first television ad campaign and testing in-store bakeries at about 175 locations. He also vowed that he would stop the chain’s losses by 2013, as Progressive Grocer sister publication CSNews Online previously reported.

    To that end, the company opened its first Fresh & Easy Express store in Los Angeles in October. The 3,000-square-foot store is less than a third the size of the retailer’s standard 10,000-square-foot model, sells approximately 2,700 SKUs vs. the usual 5,500, and has five aisles rather than eight. Fresh & Easy plans to open several more Express stores in Southern California in an effort to test whether it can expand the banner into more densely populated areas.

    In addition, Tesco launched a new loyalty program at all of its Fresh & Easy stores in mid-October. The Friends of Fresh & Easy Thank You Card is expanding to more stores after a successful trial period in Bakersfield, Calif. The program allows customers to earn one point for every dollar they spend at Fresh & Easy stores. Points can be exchanged for cash-back rewards, and updates will be sent to customers via biweekly e-mails.

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