Tesco, the British supermarket group, is hoping that a clock crossed with a green apple will mean success for the network of small supermarkets it plans to open in California, Nevada and Arizona later this year (click here for the FT’s updated list of store locations).

Firmly targeting the time-starved US grocery shopper, Tesco has registered a logo design for its venture (see below) that combines a clock face - signalling convenience - with an an apple stem, reflecting the stores’ planned focus on prepared meals and salads.

The trademark documents, filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office, suggest that Tesco will not attempt to build its brand identity in the US around its own name, which it has previously taken to markets including Thailand and Malaysia.

While Tesco’s ubiquitous stores have made the world’s fifth largest retailer a household name in the UK, it has virtually no brand recognition in the US.

Instead, it will set out to position itself around the “fresh & easy” brand, which it seems likely to use not only for what it calls its “neighbourhood market” stores, but also for the range of own-label packaged goods and prepared foods that it plans to stock.

“Whatever name they chose, they would have been building a brand from scratch in the US,” said Darrell Rigby, senior retail partner and Bain & Company consultants. ”The Tesco brand really doesn’t mean much to US consumers.”

The logos filed with the trademarks authority includes a version in shades of green - rather than the red, white and blue associated with the Tesco name, created in 1924 from the name of Jack Cohen, its founder, and TE Stockwell, his tea supplier.

The logo also uses large, simple, lower case font, reflecting a stress on simplicity which is part of the overall brand message.

Tesco documents have indicated that the retailer wants the stores to be identified as “a Fresh & Easy place to shop” where “we keep things simple”.

The retailer is placing its 15,000 sq ft stores - at least half the size of most US supermarkets - close to residential areas, with a strong stress on prepared meals and salads.

Tesco has said it will open its first stores in the late summer of 2007 around Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and the Phoenix area. It has already applied for beer and wine licences for 32 stores around Phoenix, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, with locations only a few miles apart, and it has reviewed around 300 possible store sites.

The hands of the “fresh & easy” clock are set at around five minutes past four - pointing the store at customers on their way home from work, who are looking to pick up items that might supplement a weekly or two weekly trip to a major supermarket or discount store.

Allen Adamson, of Landor Associates, the brand consultants, said the name “is direct and clear and goes right to the end benefit, that it’s easy and it is fresh, and that is the right message for the shopper”.

But he said he was less impressed by the clock image. “After all, I might want fresh and easy at 10 in the morning.”

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