UK retail giant Tesco is putting the brakes on its US expansion plans amid the economic slowdown in the country.

Tesco launched its Fresh & Easy business in California in November and has spent the last four months opening stores along the West Coast of the US.

A spokesperson for Tesco’s international operations said the hiatus was part of the company’s strategy.

“The pause in the opening programme was always part of the plan and it’s something we would do with all of our businesses, to have the opportunity to take a step back and review the process,” the spokesperson said.

“We’ve opened 30 stores already in the last couple of months so it’s been quite a rapid process. We are still getting lots of positive feedback though so we are having a three month break and then we will get back on track.”

Tesco has faced criticism from Wall Street amid claims that Fresh & Easy has missed initial internal sales forecasts.

Tesco has dismissed the claims as “scaremongering” and a clearer picture is expected to emerge when the company releases its 2007 results next month.