Being relevant at a local level and understanding a market is the key to success for any retailer.
Tesco announced yesterday that it is expanding the scope of its F&F offer internationally with two new franchise deals that will see the brand becoming available in stores across parts of the Middle East and central Asia. This is not entirely surprising. Saudi Arabian mall owner Al Hokai has seen the success of its tie-up with the brand already and is now extending this while Dubai-based trading company Al Futtaim has a nose for success and has seen what’s happening with F&F and wants a piece of it.
And the interesting point about Tesco and F&F is that it has been savvy enough to adapt both its stores and merchandise to the markets in which it operates. This is instead of beaming down and hoping that something that works in one country will automatically find favour in another.
Walk into one of the Czech Republic F&F standalones and the experience is not a million miles away from being in a branch of, perhaps, H&M or any other fashion outfit. This is a little odd, as F&F is a family-led offer, rather than a young fashion proposition, but it seems to work in spite of this.
The in-store F&F in the Tesco Extra in Woolwich attempts to do something similar, but in truth, this is a supermarket shop-in-shop, albeit a good one and the experience is different again. The point about what is being done in both locations however is versatility and flexbility.
How come therefore that Tesco managed to make quite such a pig’s ear of neighbourhood food shopping with Fresh & Easy? Anybody who has been to small town US will know that stores serving the community are the rule, rather than the exception and that to succeed, you really do have to provide local relevance. There was a smell however of cookie-cutter about Fresh & Easy, which did mean that this was an enterprise that was going to struggle from the off.
F&F currently serves as an object lesson in understanding local markets and acting accordingly. If the same modus operandi had been applied from the outset with Fresh & Easy, perhaps the £1bn cost of quitting the US might never have happened – it might even have shown a profit…things could been Easier and the offer Fresher…much like F&F really.