Tesco backs Fresh & Easy

TESCO’S new chief executive Philip Clarke is to continue the US expansion strategy of his predecessor Sir Terry Leahy despite ongoing losses in the market, the group said yesterday.

Tesco said its Fresh & Easy brand was opening two new stores in California with a further ten due to open across the state before the end of April this year.

Clarke’s decision to plough ahead with the stores is a key show of support for Leahy’s strategy for the chain, which made a £95m loss in the six months to the end of August. Fresh & Easy currently has more than 160 stores but half-year sales were £247m.

It is not expected to turn a profit until the 2012-13 financial year but breaking into the US market is an important long-term goal for Tesco.

Shore Capital analyst Clive Black said this year would be critical to determine whether Fresh & Easy was on the path to profitability.

Clarke took over from Leahy on Wednesday.