El Segundo, California — Fresh & Easy, a chain of small-format grocery stores acquired by The Yucaipa Companies in 2013, has been re-envisioning its stores throughout California, Nevada and Arizona with the mission of making fresh and natural food more available and affordable. Recently, the chain debuted a new “Smarter Market” concept at 17 stores in Las Vegas.
“The company has been reinvigorated, and we are now using Las Vegas as a test market to implement even more new ideas and concepts,” says Mike Evans, the chain’s vice president of marketing.
The retailer worked with Ignited, an agency based in El Segundo like Fresh & Easy, on the “Smarter Market” concept, which emerged from research showing that consumers were somewhat confused about the Fresh & Easy brand. “Most of the stores had self-checkout, were smaller format, and had a narrower mix of products,” says Eric Johnson, founder and president of Ignited. “People didn’t know quite what to make of it.”
The chain had a number of messages to convey, Johnson says, including distribution capabilities that allow it to quickly ship fresh food from farm to store, its offering of a line of healthy and organic foods through the Wild Oats brand, and its variety of precooked and prepared foods. “Fresh & Easy had a whole range of stories to tell but needed a simple handle,” Johnson says. “The shorthand when we were developing the strategy was, ‘What if we take the best things from a convenience store and combine them with the best things from a healthy food store?’”
From this strategy, the idea of the Smarter Market emerged. “We’re reintroducing ourselves as a completely new market and we’re reaching customers everywhere they might be – TV, radio, social media,” Evans says. “We even have a food truck making its way through Las Vegas neighborhoods introducing Fresh & Easy as the ‘Smarter Market.’”
Promotion started last fall with billboards in Las Vegas, and radio ads followed in mid-November. These positioned Fresh & Easy as a champion of good, fresh ideas through scenarios in which a shopper comes up with a fresh idea and a store employee offers a practical alternative to that good idea.
A series of TV ads ran shortly thereafter based on the same concept. The campaign also included strategically timed online ads and digital coupons throughout December.
Radio remotes used to support the grand re-openings of stores featured gift card giveaways, various other prizes and charitable donations. The chain hosted ribbon-cutting events to unveil the store redesigns. “We tried to saturate the media landscape and get across a simple idea,” Johnson says. “‘This is not the Fresh & Easy you knew. You’ve got to come try us out.’”
The test stores convey this meaningful change. The in-store graphics are all new and updated, as are the fixtures and the newly lowered shelves that now stand 4 feet high. “It doesn’t look like a conventional grocery store,” Johnson says. “You can see way across the store, which makes it seem more approachable and creates a ‘get in and out’ mentality.”
The stores are complete redesigns of the existing Fresh & Easy locations. They explore the concept of modern convenience through new elements such as a “Fresh to Go” hot food bar island, extra beverage stations and an enhanced selection of fresh food. They also feature a new cafe seating area for customers who wish to dine in the stores.
The company added staffed cashier islands to complement the self-checkouts, and introduced a new service called Click & Collect Curbside to allow shoppers to order online and have purchases placed in their trunks by employees.
According to Johnson, the effort represents a meaningful investment in both the stores and the marketing program to test out this modern convenience message. “We think it will resonate with people,” he says. “It’s right for the times – for busy people who want an alternative to big-box stores or fast food or traditional grocery retailers.”
The test was set to run through March 1. “Ultimately, we will measure our success on driving traffic into our stores,” Evans says. “We’re happy with the results we’ve seen thus far.”