It’s one step back and two steps forward for Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market.

Fresh & Easy, a subsidiary of United Kingdom-based Tesco PLC, is closing 12 stores in three Western states but plans to open 25 in the first quarter, spokesman Brendan Wonnacott said.

Of the 12 closures, seven are in California — Anaheim, Bakersfield, Baldwin Park, Fountain Valley, Fresno, Hemet and Ontario. Four are in Phoenix and one is in Las Vegas.

“Those stores were underperforming and did not have the growth in sales and customer numbers we needed,” Wonnacott said.

Nevertheless, Fresh & Easy will retain leases on the properties.

“We plan to reopen when economic and business conditions improve,” he said.

Openings and closures are in flux. As of Jan. 11, Fresh & Easy had 187 stores in California, Arizona and Nevada; by the end of March the number is expected to reach 197.

Fresh & Easy’s strongest presence has been in Southern California, but expansion efforts have kept an eye on the state’s northern half. The chain plans to open its first stores in the Sacramento area — five altogether — in March, Wonnacott said.

In 2008, Fresh & Easy had plans to open more than 20 stores in Sacramento. The recession put all that on hold.

Other opening plans include seven smaller Fresh & Easy Express stores in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Express stores are about 3,000 square feet, compared to 10,000 for the larger.

Fresh & Easy is offering jobs at nearby stores to employees hit by the closures, Wonnacott said. In Phoenix, for example, 21 stores will remain open after the four closures there.