Fresh & Easy plans to temporarily close its Cedar and Shields avenues store in Fresno.
Though the retailer says the store will reopen, at least one retail expert says he is skeptical.
Fresh & Easy is closing 12 underperforming stores in Arizona, Nevada and California, including one in Bakersfield and several in Southern California.
"At this time, there's not enough growth in customers and sales to keep them open," said Fresh & Easy spokesman Brendan Wonnacott. "All these stores are temporarily closed. We'll reopen when business and economic conditions [warrant reopening]."
The store will close by Feb. 1, and its 20 employees will be offered jobs at other stores, he said.
The chain made a similar move in October 2010, temporarily shuttering 13 stores -- mostly in Phoenix and Las Vegas -- that are still closed.
Unless Fresh & Easy has a plan to redo the stores with a new concept, they likely won't reopen, said Scott Testa, a Philadelphia-based independent retail expert.
"It will probably ultimately be permanent," he said. "I would be shocked if they all reopened."
Although many retailers expand during economic downturns due to good deals on property, the grocery industry is a tough field to succeed in, Testa said.
"That segment is just so hyper-competitive to begin with," he said. "The margins are always small. They're competing against everything from Walmart to the grocery store chains to the convenience stores."
But Fresh & Easy says that despite the closures, the 187-store chain is doing fine.
It's forging ahead with plans to open 25 stores over the next two months, including five in Sacramento.
"We're making progress on plans for profitability at the end of the next financial year," Wonnacott said. That fiscal year ends in February 2013.
Fresh & Easy, owned by British retail giant Tesco, first jumped into the Fresno market in January 2010. It now has nine stores in Fresno, Clovis, Lemoore, Reedley and Dinuba.
Two Fresno stores that have been in the works for years are now listed as "coming soon" on the Fresh & Easy website, though Wonnacott said no further information was available.
One store is at 4745 W. Ashlan Ave., near Cornelia Avenue. The other is at 6048 N. First St. near Bullard Avenue. That store was finished long ago, with empty shelves visible from outside.
Fresh & Easy also leased space at the southeast corner of Herndon and Milburn avenues and built a building, but the store hasn't opened yet.