Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, a new grocery store chain, will start a rollout across the Valley beginning Dec. 5 with locations in Chandler and Mesa.
The company, owned by the United Kingdom-based grocer Tesco, announced plans in February to carve out a market niche in Arizona by focusing on cheap organic and natural foods as well as ready-to-eat meals.
Spokesman Brendan Wonnacott said stores are opening gradually in Southern California, Las Vegas and the Valley.
“There’s no deep thought in it,” he said. “(When) they are able to open, we’re going to get them open.”
The company announced 27 Valley locations altogether, with the first openings in Mesa at Main Street and Ellsworth Road, Brown and Recker roads and Alma School Road and University Drive. A store will also open in Chandler at Alma School and Elliot roads.
The company had been extremely tight-lipped about product selections, store formats and opening dates since announcing plans early this year.
“I think what they’re doing is kind of keeping the mystique alive,” said Mindy McBain, a writer for The Shelby Report, a trade publication.
She said customer response to the California stores, which began opening last week, have been fairly positive.
“They’re surprised at how well they actually like the stores,” she said.
But just how closely other companies are watching and reacting is hard to ascertain.
“We don’t comment on the competition,” said Albertsons spokeswoman Christine Wilcox.
Fry’s spokeswoman Kendra Doyel offered little more insight into the thinking of her company’s executives.
“We would never comment on competition and the things that they’re doing,” she said.
David J. Livingston, an industry analyst based in Wisconsin, said Fresh & Easy is drawing a lot of attention from other companies.
“Oh, this is a big deal,” he said. “Everybody’s checking this out.”
Livingston said the chain is comparable in some ways to other upscale, organic grocers. But one key difference is that Fresh & Easy is taking the fight to lower-income customers with cheaper prices, while others appeal to higher-income consumers.