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Nearly eight years after its grand debut, El Segundo, Calif.-based Fresh & Easy has finally pulled the plug and will close or sell its remaining 97 stores in California, Arizona and Nevada. The move marks the fated end of the line for the struggling chain, which had previously cut in half the number of stores it had at its peak.
In conjunction with liquidating its store inventory, all 3,000 Fresh & Easy employees will be laid off.
"Over the last two years, we have been working hard to build a new Fresh & Easy," company spokesman Brendan Wonnacott said in a statement. "While we made progress on stemming our losses and moving the business closer to break even, unfortunately we have been unable to obtain financing and the liquidity necessary to continue to fund the business going forward.”
Following its acquisition by Yucaipa Cos. in Nov. 2013 in a bankruptcy auction, Fresh & Easy embarked on an ambitious uphill battle in June of 2014 to reinvent its tarnished brand that struggled to turn a profit from the outset. Created by British retail giant Tesco, the chain opened its first store in the United States in Hemet, Calif., in October 2007. Five years later, Tesco filed for bankruptcy protection after investing roughly $1.5 billion in the venture before bailing.
Although reports began surfacing that another bankruptcy filing was imminent, no mention was made of doing so in a company statement released Wednesday.
In 2013, Yucaipa purchased 167 Fresh & Easy stores, along with a distribution and manufacturing facilities in Riverside, Calif., and one year later moved to close dozens of unprofitable stores.
Potential suitors for the soon-to-be vacant sites include Aldi and Grocery Outlet, both of which had already been planning to expand in Southern California, among others.