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The Next British Invasion

BY CSA STAFF

British grocery giant Tesco PLC began its long-awaited assault on the U.S. retail scene with the opening of its first six Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market locations in Southern California (for a first-hand report, see story page 19). With 100% self-checkout systems, the format is big on convenience, with an emphasis on healthy fresh foods and prepared meals. Virtually everything is pre-packaged, including almost all of the produce. The Fresh & Easy private-label accounts for half of the food offerings, and is represented in nearly every major category, from produce to coffee to prepared items. There is also a limited selection of non-food items, including health and beauty merchandise, over-the-counter medications and paper goods.

Featuring a 10,000-sq.-ft. footprint, Fresh & Easy has a clean, streamlined look, with wide aisles, an uncluttered feel and bright lighting. Signage throughout the space calls attention to the retailer’s eco-friendly and organic positioning (Fresh & Easy’s private brand has no artificial colors or flavors, and no trans fats). Along the aisles, products are shelved in their original cardboard containers.

As part of the company’s commitment to the environment, Fresh & Easy has committed to building LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings, recycle or reuse all shipping and display materials and use eco-friendly trailers to transport food. It also has invested in California’s largest solar roof installation on its distribution center in Riverside.

Fresh & Easy plans to open 200 stores by the end of next year, with 50 scheduled to open by the end of February 2008, in Southern California, Phoenix and Las Vegas. Tesco has committed to investing $2 billion dollars over five years in its U.S. debut.

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CompUSA may get a new look

BY CSA STAFF

ADDISON, Tx. After opening a new format store last month, CompUSA may be changing the format of its other stores, depending on customer demand and product interest.

According to reports, the elements found in the prototype store, located in Texas, will be incorporated into other CompUSA locations across the United States.

The nearly 7,700 square-ft. relocation site includes an Apple shop featuring Mac computers, iPods and Apple accessories, and a full-length LCD TV wall.

Additional expansions include extended gaming, which includes an entire wall devoted to the Nintendo Wii, PlayStation3 and Xbox 360 gaming platforms, plus a PC gaming setup to test equipment and play new titles.

While businesses can get their share of support with a specialized services section, all consumers can visit the store’s redesigned IT support area.

“This new store aligns CompUSA’s vision to better serve its three core customers, the technology enthusiast, educated professional and small and medium businesses,” said Gabriela Villalobos, the retailer’s sales and operations evp.

CompUSA announced in April that it would narrow its focus to three core customer groups rather than try to serve a mass audience.

The move was part of a comprehensive restructuring, initiated last February, that included an overhaul of senior management and the closure of half its store base as the privately held chain looked to improve sales and profitability.

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Walgreens withdraws from CVS provider plans

BY CSA STAFF

DEERFIELD, Ill. After many months of talks over low and below-market payment rates by CVS Caremark for four prescription plans, Walgreens has withdrawn as a pharmacy provider from the plans.

Patients affected include members of prescription benefit plans managed by CVS Caremark for ArcelorMittal, Johnson Controls, Progressive Casualty Insurance and Wisconsin Education Association Trust.

Most of the affected members live in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Trent Taylor, president of Walgreens Health Services, the managed care division of Walgreens, released the following statement:

“This is not where we wanted negotiations to lead,” he said. “We’re sorry that our pharmacy patients and CVS Caremark’s clients are caught in the middle, and we’ll do all we can to ensure a smooth transition for our patients to another pharmacy. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to work on resolving this issue with CVS Caremark.

“Leaving a benefits plan is an extraordinary step for us, but it demonstrates how extraordinarily low our payments were from CVS Caremark. We can’t continue accepting reimbursement rates that are drastically below market, while offering patients needed special services such as 24-hour pharmacy access and drive-thru pharmacies.”

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