Tesco may have opened its 11th Fresh & Easy Neighbourhood Market store this week, but "you ain't seen nothing yet", according to the chief designer of the US venture.
After last week's grand entry into California, Tesco has opened five more stores in Nevada, but the US public will not get a glimpse of Tesco's full offer until January, said Kevin O'Donnell, creative director at retail design and fabrication company Schorleaf.
O'Donnell, who has been working with Tesco in the US for two-and-a-half years, said the first 50 Fresh & Easy stores scheduled to open by the end of the year would all be converted retail outlets.
Tesco would next open a swathe of new-builds as it is looking for an 80:20 mix of new build to acquisition sites for the 200-store estate it plans to have created by the end of 2008, said O'Donnell. "The first stores were all acquisitions because it was the only way Tesco could meet the opening timescales," he said.
"When the first prototype store opens in January, people will see a very different look and feel," he said. "We call it the three Gs - glass, geometry and green."
One of the front-facing exterior walls would be all glass, while the other would be the Fresh & Easy green, complete with the chain's apple logo, and both would be connected with an "eyecatching" rising triangular structure, he said. The interior would be very slick, with clear graphics.
"My hope is that Tesco will lead other grocers to change by raising the design bar," he added.
Tesco also planned to open stores in Phoenix and Arizona, where it was relatively easy to find new-build sites, he said.
Tesco was creating a complete branded experience, whereas other US grocery chains hand their aisles over to the major manufacturers, claimed O'Donnell. "That may generate a lot of revenue for these retailers, but the manufacturers now own the aisles," he said. "Tesco realised that was a mistake and has worked to give the consumer a cohesive offer. It may miss out on promotions from the manufacturers, but its prices are already incredibly competitive."
The first prototype store is due to open in the first two weeks of January.