Reports that the British supermarket giant Tesco is getting ready to close its U.S. grocery chain Fresh & Easy "came as a blow" to many nutrition advocates, Hannah Burton Laurison and Christine Fry write. By opening small-footprint food stores in neighborhoods that other grocery chains have largely ignored, the company made fresh produce and other healthy foods available in neighborhoods with few options.
But the failure of Fresh & Easy doesn't mean healthy food stores "can’t make enough of a profit to survive in these neighborhoods," the authors write. They note that a number of other major retailers -- including WalMart, Target, and Safeway -- are now testing out small-format grocery stores in low-income communities, and lessons from Fresh & Easy’s experience will be critical to seeing these outlets succeed.
Supermarkets have become "nothing less than huge" since the post World War II suburbanization of America, Laurison and Fry write, making it hard for inner-city markets to compete. But as the industry continues to try out small-format discount grocery stores, tailoring their offerings to community needs may be one key to making sure these food outlets thrive.
"While Fresh & Easy may not have proved profitable enough for Tesco, small grocery stores offering fresh foods are still cropping up in underserved neighborhoods around the country," the authors write – "and these successors should take a lesson from local grocers if they expect to truly succeed."