Fresh & Easy, the US arm of Tesco, has slowed the pace of its expansion drive and adjusted its offering in response to the economic downturn.

Refusing to comment on reports that the US unit will post a drop in sales ahead of Tesco’s result tomorrow (21 April), a spokesperson for the group told just-food that the business has slowed – but not halted – its store opening programme.

“We have scaled back expansion in the last few months…. Expansion is continuing but not at the pace originally planned,” the spokesperson said.

However, the spokesperson revealed, Fresh & Easy has missed its expansion targets by almost a half. “We had originally set a target to open 200 stores by the end of February: We currently have 118.”

The primary reason for Fresh & Easy’s slowed rate of store openings is the “immense changes in the economy,” the spokesperson said.

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“The areas we are expanding in… have been hit very hard in the downturn.”

Tesco has had to adjust the Fresh & Easy offering since debuting in the US last year, increasing its focus on price and launching a range of value products in order to appeal to cash strapped consumers.

“Folks are now extremely focused on price… and we have adjusted to reflect this and that is essentially about communicating price. We’ve done a lot more price promotions and launched budget lines,” the spokesperson revealed.