Suppliers – not to mention employees – will have breathed a sigh of relief yesterday as Planet Organic secured an unlikely rescue spearheaded by the chain’s founder Renée Elliott.

Little is known about what comes next. Elliott and her financial backers at Bioren didn’t make any direct comment in yesterday’s statement, outside of a vague intention to return to “Planet Organic’s vision and values, reinvigorating the business by celebrating its mission ‘to promote health in the community’”. It also pledged 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”.

Notably, it’s not been confirmed whether George Dymond will remain with the business – although there are rumours Elliott is bringing back long-time CEO Peter Marsh to get the ship sailing in the right direction.

Uncertainty aside, the pre-pack administration is the best possible outcome for the supermarket following an anxious couple of months for all involved, which saw Waitrose pull out of talks.

As CEO Dymond and advisers at Interpath worked frantically behind the scenes to find a buyer, it looked increasingly likely any deal would just be for the brand, as potential investors waited for a liquidation to pick up assets on the cheap.

But having secured Elliott as a white knight, 10 of the organic grocer’s 14 stores will continue to trade.

It is great news for a supply base that is still hurting and scarred from the messy collapse of Tree of Life and sister wholesaler The Health Store last year. Planet may be a small retailer in the grand scheme of things, but it is a much-loved brand, especially for startups in the health food space, who may not have survived another collapse in the supply chain.

It is also a positive outcome for London-based specialist wholesaler Wholegood, which is exposed to Planet and undergoing its own search for new financial backing to ensure survival. The Planet rescue will surely aid that process.

Of course, suppliers will be keen to hear Elliott’s plans to repay money owed, given an administration effectively wipes the slate – and liabilities – clean.

It remains to be seen whether Elliott and her investors will stick to the principles of the rescue plan put together by Dymond and former PE owner Inverleith, revealed by The Grocer earlier this month.

The proposal for all continuing suppliers was for 50p in the pound to be paid in instalments over 18 months, provided they continued to supply to Planet on the same trade terms. This was expected to cost any new backer £1.2m.

That proposed rescue plan also outlined a slimmed-down grocery range, a scrapping of food to go and a renewed focus on higher-margin health and beauty, which seems a sensible strategy given four years of ongoing losses at the group.

Planet clearly has a strong underlying business and outsized brand equity for an essentially tiny London-only supermarket. And with a handful of lossmaking stores jettisoned in the pre-pack administration, the future looks much rosier.

Of course, not everyone involved will be pleased with the outcome – not least the 64 staff who lost jobs as the Henley, Bermondsey, Tottenham Court Road and Teddington stores all shut their doors.

Inverleith has also endured a miserable and embarrassing few weeks as it took a bath on a second asset following the collapse of Farmison earlier in the month.

Once the dust has settled, the examination of what went wrong at Planet will begin. Since Inverleith bought out Elliott in 2018, Planet has made ever-increasing losses.

It completed a takeover deal of As Nature Intended to almost double its store estate just before the pandemic hit in March 2020. With all its locations in London, the business was more exposed to a dramatic reduction in footfall, leading to the permanent closure of five stores.

A number of experienced senior directors and buyers also jumped ship, destabilising the business, in the years following Dymond taking charge in 2021.

It was only in September last year Planet told The Grocer it was doubling ambitions to become a 50-store chain by 2025 to a new target of opening 100 shops in the next three years, kicking off a £30m funding drive to back the expansion despite widening losses.

In hindsight – and perhaps even with foresight – this looks like the stuff of fantasy. The plans were soon scaled down again. Planet was forced to scrap a successful crowdfunding round as it admitted even 50 stores was too ambitious, shifting the target down to 18.

The move to a centralised distribution model with the opening of a new facility in Sunbury-on-Thames to support store expansion also added to costs.

All this will be laid bare by administrators in the coming weeks.

But for now, suppliers, staff and customers will be looking to the future as they await Elliott’s return to the business she founded back in 1995.