WILSHIRE BLVD —  The parent company of Fresh & Easy announced Wednesday its intentions to withdraw from the United States, but the grocery chain maintains there are no plans to close any of its stores yet.

Tesco — a British company that claims to be one of the world’s largest retailers with 6,700 stores in 12 markets — said that it would be selling the company and leaving the United States after posting losses of roughly $1.85 billion over the year ending Feb. 25, 2013.

That sent net profit for the year down 96 percent, according to the Associated Press.

A similar exit from Japan came to a successful close on Jan. 1, 2013, according to Tesco.

“The announcements made today are natural consequences of strategic changes we first began over a year ago and which conclude today,” said Philip Clarke, chief executive officer of Tesco.

The process of divesting from the United States is “well advanced,” according to the report.

Despite the dreary news, there are no plans to close any existing stores, nor will the company comment on potential stores like the one proposed at 2800 Wilshire Blvd., said Brendan Wonnacott, communications director at Fresh & Easy.

“While we don’t yet know who will ultimately own Fresh & Easy, Tesco has already received interest from a number of parties including groups looking to purchase Fresh & Easy as an operating business,” Wonnacott said Wednesday.

There will be no updates on unopened stores until the sale of the business is complete, Wonnacott said.

Santa Monica’s proposed Fresh & Easy was meant to go into the former Magnolia Audio Video store in the Mid-City neighborhood of Santa Monica. Agents of service for the building did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The store initially filed an application for a parking variance that would have allowed 38 on-site parking spaces rather than the 50 required by City Hall.

Another 17 spots would be sought off-site, with five coming from the nearby 2811 Wilshire Blvd. and 12 more at 3201 Wilshire Blvd., according to a project description sent out to residents.

Although some celebrated the idea of a new corner store in the neighborhood, fears of additional traffic and parking issues on the eastern end of Wilshire Boulevard were high.

That anxiety went through the roof when the grocery store submitted new plans to reduce the size of the store so that it would not have to find additional parking.

At the same time, City Hall began exploring the idea of renting the additional retail space at a minimal monthly rent to store emergency supplies. That deal was cemented last Tuesday by the City Council.

Fresh & Easy also dropped plans to sell alcohol at the store, circumventing a need to get a conditional use permit from City Hall for the sale and keeping it out of public hearings altogether.

Some may mourn the loss of the store, should the larger company decide to cut its losses there. Residents joined the call for easily accessible, fresh and organic food that the store would bring, and at relatively cheap rates.

Inexpensive food options are getting fewer and farther between in Mid-City, with the recent conversion of an Albertsons branded store into a high-end Bristol Farms.

 

ashley@smdp.com