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Tesco accelerated expansion prompts response from rivals

BY DSN STAFF

RIVERSIDE, Calif. —When Tesco opened its first stores in Los Angeles last December, it said it would have 50 Fresh & Easy outlets opened by the end of February. And it reached that goal last month, with time to spare.

Tesco opened its 50th store in Palm Desert, Calif., on Feb. 20, and had more openings in the pipeline for the final week of the month, putting it ahead of what’s already an ambitious schedule. The chain now expects to have up to 300 of its 10,000-square-foot Fresh & Easy stores in California, Arizona and Nevada by the end of 2009, with stores already in such major markets as Phoenix, San Diego and Las Vegas.

The British chain said it has more than 140 confirmed locations for stores due to open in the next year, including about 18 in the Bay area, a region Safeway has dominated for years. Tesco plans to open its first stores there in early 2009, in cities that include San Francisco, Oakland, Walnut Creek and Concord.

And it’s reportedly looking to roll out Fresh & Easy stores in the Chicago area, according to a report published last month in the Chicago Sun Times. The newspaper cited a “knowledgeable source” as saying Tesco could offer Chicago, “something unique because of its strong offering of prepared foods, packaged perishables and selection of produce, meat and bakery.”

Tesco didn’t comment on the report and has said it plans to limit expansion to the West Coast in 2008. Though it hasn’t released financial results for its U.S. stores—and doesn’t plan to this year—Tesco executives have said that they’re “very pleased” with results so far.

The rapid rollout of Fresh & Easy stores is already prompting a response from rivals. Wal-Mart plans to open three, 15,000-square-foot Marketside grocery stores in the Phoenix area this spring. The stores will be less than half the size of its 40,000-square-foot Neighborhood Markets, a 130-store chain that’s the smallest format Wal-Mart has. Safeway is also considering the launch of smaller format stores in Northern California to respond to Tesco’s move into that territory.

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Sturken to celebrate his fifth year at Spartan by ringing NASDAQ bell

BY Michael Johnsen

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. Spartan Stores’ chairman and chief executive officer Craig Sturken is slated to ring the NASDAQ opening bell on March 3 in celebration of his fifth anniversary leading Spartan, the company announced Thursday.

 “It is an honor to ring the opening NASDAQ bell in celebration of our fifth successful year since transforming into a consumer-centric organization and refocusing our business on our core distribution and retail operations,” Sturken stated. “We have been in the grocery business for more than 90 years and this is our eighth year as a public company, which is marked by our ability to develop and execute successful business strategies in a highly competitive market.”

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Unilever to reorganize company structure

BY Antoinette Alexander

LONDON Unilever, whose brands include Axe, Sunsilk and Dove, has announced that it is restructuring the company and combining its home and personal care segment and food segment into a single category structure.

Ralph Kugler, president of home and personal care, will step down in May at the Annual General Meetings after 29 years of service. The roles of president of home and personal care and president of foods will be merged under the leadership of Vindi Banga, currently president of foods.

To reflect the company’s focus on growth in developing markets, Central and Eastern Europe will be managed within an enlarged region comprised of Asia, Africa and Central and Eastern Europe. Western Europe will become a standalone region.

In other moves, Kees van der Graaf will retire in May from the Unilever board and from his role as president of Europe after a 32-year career with Unilever.

Harish Manwani, currently president of Asia/Africa, will lead the new expanded region. Doug Baillie will serve as president of Western Europe, having previously served as chief executive officer of Hindustan Unilever.

“These measures build naturally on the changes of recent years and give us an organizational structure even better placed to advance our growth agenda. At the same time, I want to express my deep appreciation to Kees and Ralph for the significant contribution they have made over long and distinguished years,” stated Patrick Cescau, group chief executive.

In addition, James Lawrence, currently chief financial officer, will be proposed in May for election as an executive director of Unilever. This change will mean that the Unilever board will be comprised of two executive directors and 11 non-executives.

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