A popular grocery store chain may soon close its doors. The CEO for Fresh & Easy says the stores are losing money and big changes could be ahead.
The company announced all of its American stores, including six in Kern County, are under review. After operating in the United States for five years, the company says sales are down and the CEO blames the economy.
"I buy a lot of fruit and veggies here. I like their breads. It's a good place to pick up quick foods," said customer Tony Precht.
Fresh & Easy may be quick and easy for customers, but sales are down five years after the British-based company opened 200 stores in the Western United States. This year, 12 stores closed, including one in Bakersfield on Planz Road and South H Street.
Now, the rest of the stores are in danger. "Disappointing, disappointing. I mean if they close, there's Vons across the street, but their salads aren't nearly as good," said customer Nick Grundhofer.
Philip Clarke, the Chief Executive for Fresh & Easy's parent company, Tesco, addressed the issue in a blog. It says in part, "We're considering all options for the business, but it's likely that the review will lead to Tesco exiting the U.S. market."
"I think people have the tendency not to go to a place like this because it does cost a little more," said Mike Gutierrez.
Shoppers like Mike Gutierrez blame the economy. "I think people have a tendency right now to shop wherever they can, get stuff discounted if they can," he continued.
Most Fresh & Easy American stores are in California, including six in Kern County. Gutierrez says the stores sell healthy, pre-packaged meals you can't find anywhere else.
"Where I live in Delano, it's the only store you can do that. The organic stuff, nuts, protein, I can't get anywhere else," noted Gutierrez.
Shoppers like Tony Precht wonder where she will shop. "I will just have to find other stores to shop at. I hope they don't, but a sign of the times I guess," said Precht.
17 News called the company's corporate office in Los Angeles on Thursday. The woman who answered the phone said the company wasn't taking calls.
No word on how many people could potentially lose their jobs. Tesco's review of the stores will be completed in April.