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Fresh & Easy, the new grocery chain from British retailer Tesco, is struggling to gain traction as it tries to make inroads in Southern California’s supermarket market, the Los Angeles Times is reporting.

The chain, which boasts a Trader Joe’s-like touch, has six stores in San Diego County and a seventh opening soon in Point Loma. Another store was in the works for Valencia Park before troubles beset a redevelopment project there, although the store could still go forward.

The Times reports:

Fresh isn’t turning out to be all that easy.

With much fanfare, British retailer Tesco this fall billed its Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market chain of small grocery stores as a fresher, more convenient alternative to large supermarkets when it opened its first stores in Southern California.

Nearly six months later, it looks as though many shoppers aren’t buying it. The chain remains optimistic but says it is suspending the opening of U.S. stores for three months.

At the same time, financial analysts believe the Brits may be missing their sales targets by as much as 70%, but the company maintains a stiff upper lip.

“We are encouraged. Every week we see more customers and higher sales,” said Simon Uwins, Fresh & Easy’s marketing chief. He declined to discuss specific sales figures.

But many customers, competitors, grocery experts and financial analysts say they are not convinced that the much-ballyhooed British invasion of Southern California has been a success — at least so far.

ANDREW DONOHUE

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