Elaine Watson
Organics chain As Nature Intended, the brainchild of former Iceland boss Malcolm Walker, has imploded with the sale of the East Sheen store and the closure of the warehouse in Acton.
As Nature Intended MD Pippa Sterry has left and been replaced by Walker's youngest daughter Caroline, who will run the remaining store in Chiswick.
One supplier said: "We got the impression they were going out to show everyone else a thing or two, and it hasn't quite gone that well. If they were only planning to have a few stores, why did they get a warehouse?"
Walker said he had only ever envisaged the As Nature Intended concept as a "little chain of about five or six stores," but his other business interests had meant he had not been able to devote sufficient time to the project.
Although the East Sheen store was not losing money, said Walker, it was not as well located as the profitable Chiswick store, the success of which proved that the As Nature Intended concept had a future.
Shutting down the warehouse was a matter of simple economics, he added. "We don't need a warehouse if we are operating from a single store."
However, there was no reason why his daughter might not look to expand the chain and open in new locations in the future. "This is a sustainable niche business to be in. Not everyone wants to go searching for these products in a supermarket. The business is well funded, Chiswick is a great store and there is no doubt specialist organics stores like this have a future. They feel good and the staff are knowledgeable."
Suppliers said they were surprised Walker had invested in a warehouse before building up a group of stores, but felt confident the format was sustainable in the right location.
One said: "East Sheen wasn't the right place for the store. At the end of the day, there weren't enough customers going through the door."
Cooltrader, Walker's freezer chain run by former Iceland finance director Andy Pritchard, was progressing well in locations in Wales and Liverpool, said Walker. "We have five stores now and another two in the pipeline."

{{NEWS }}