Planet Organic Muswell Hill

Ten of the retailer’s 14 stores will continue trading

Planet Organic has secured a last-minute rescue deal led by the chain’s founder Renée Elliott.

It follows weeks of intense talks with a host of potential investors to save the company after Waitrose ended negotiations to take over its smaller rival.

Interpath Advisory today agreed a sale of the majority of the business and its assets to Bioren Ltd. Bioren’s shareholders include Elliott, who launched the organic grocer in 1995, and her husband Brian.

The pre-pack deal will result in 10 Planet Organic stores continuing to trade across London, saving 194 jobs in-store and 71 in the head office.

Four stores – Henley, Bermondsey, Tottenham Court Road and Teddington – are not included in the transaction and will close with immediate effect, leaving 64 staff without jobs. Henley was the group’s first store opened outside the capital, which started trading in the summer of 2022, and Teddington is Planet’s newest shop, only opening its doors in February this year.

Will Wright and Chris Pole from Interpath, which has been working with former private equity owner Inverleith since February to find a buyer, were appointed as joint administrators to Planet Organic Ltd on 25 April 2023.

Loyal customers

“Planet Organic is a well-respected brand with wonderful stores and hard-working people that genuinely care about the customer experience, which is why over the years it has grown a very loyal customer base,” Wright said.

Interpath director Gareth Slater added: “After a competitive process, we’re delighted to have concluded this transaction which will see the Planet Organic name continue to trade and, importantly, protects a large number of jobs.

“We know that the new owners have exciting plans for the business and we wish them the very best for the future and look forward to seeing the business go from strength to strength.”

The statement also said the directors of Bioren planned to return to “Planet Organic’s vision and values, reinvigorating the business by celebrating its mission, ‘to promote health in the community’, and to renew training and culture, with the aim of inspiring people to eat well and create personal health and vitality while supporting the earth’s health and biodiversity”.

Elliott sold her stake in Planet as part of a 2018 takeover by Inverleith, a Scottish private equity house that also owned premium online meat retailer Farmison – which also collapsed this month before being bought out by a consortium led by former Asda boss Andy Clarke.

Under Inverleith, Planet almost doubled its store base thanks to the acquisition of As Nature Intended in 2020, making it one of the UK’s biggest specialist organic grocers.

Significant losses

However, Planet made significant losses in the four financial years from 2018/19 to 2021/22, with more expected in the current fiscal period ending in August.

It was hit hard by the pandemic as footfall in London, where almost all its stores are based, reduced, leading it to close five shops.

Interpath added today that following the end of lockdown periods, Planet’s directors embarked on “a new growth phase that required significant restructuring and changes within the business”.

“While the underlying business is strong and the company’s stores were largely profitable, the business as a whole was lossmaking, which ultimately led to the appointment of the administrators,” the firm said.

Planet also carried out a crowdfunding round on Seedrs at the end of last year, securing £7m in a campaign valuing the company at about £30m.

But it was forced to pull the plug on the round before taking the money as the campaign centred on a growth plan of opening 50 stores, which it then scaled back to around 18.

CEO George Dymond, who took charge at the supermarket at the end of 2021, had hoped to secure a rescue for the business, putting together a plan to cut back the store base and refocus more on higher margin health and beauty products, as reported by The Grocer earlier this month.

It is unclear at this stage if Dymond will remain involved in the business.