Tim Mason and his team have created an impressively slick operation in the States. They've had the luxury of setting up a new chain from scratch. The team at Fresh & Easy - Mason, Simon Uwins and John Burry - have used 100 years of Tesco experience between them to great effect. So far they're managing to keep everyone happy: US consumers, who have queued up at the first 19 stores to experience the US shopping novelty; the 100 City analysts who visted the California and Las Vegas stores last week; and the journalists who followed hot on their heels. Prices are extremely competitive - Fresh & Easy out-priced Wal-Mart on more than half of a basket of 10 items. And the quality of food that comes out of Tesco's first manufacturing plant had seasoned hacks cooing over the freshness of a chicken Caesar salad. Wal-Mart does not seem too perturbed for now. But if Fresh & Easy continues to attract admirers and achieves its goal of opening a store within a mile of every person along the west coast of America the US giant will surely be less welcoming.

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