(Jan. 4) Tesco — the United Kingdom’s biggest retailer — has started obtaining property in Phoenix’s East Valley, with plans to open their first stores in 2007, development officials said in an article in the East Valley Tribune.

Nikki Martin, spokeswoman for Tesco, declined to comment for the story.

Tesco, the fourth-largest retailer in the world has begun buying or leasing land in Phoenix and Mesa, Ariz.

“They’ve made up their mind. They’re out looking for sites,” said Paul Katsenes, deputy director of community and economic development in Phoenix, in the Tribune article.

However, Tesco enters a highly saturated grocery store market and will be met with ardent competition from local supermarkets, like Safeway, Fry’s and Bashas’ Supermarkets, said Rob Johnson, spokesman for Chandler, Ariz.-based Bashas’.

“There’s no way around it,” Johnson told the Tribune. “(It’s) a really crowded market. There’s either going to be a long drawn out stare down (or) something will have to give.

“And usually at the end of a stare down, somebody does give.”

According to the Financial Times, the retailer has chosen nine locations in Southern California, 18 in Arizona and four in Nevada.