Ethical grocer Hisbe will permanently close its stores, after its founders were unable to raise new funding.
Last month the Sussex-based community enterprise – which stands for How It Should Be – temporarily closed its two stores in Brighton & Hove while it sought new funding to pay its creditors. Hisbe said it had struggled after a disappointing Christmas but told customers it would “hopefully, be back soon”.
However, the business has now confirmed it has entered into voluntary liquidation, and will cease trading immediately.
“It’s with great sadness that we announce the very painful decision to declare Hisbe insolvent and take the company into voluntary liquidation,” Hisbe said in a statement on its social media channels.
“Since the final tranche of our recovery funding fell through, we have explored all avenues to raise the investment we need to reopen the stores, but Hisbe is carrying too much debt from the last four years for funders to put new money in.
“We were following a strategic turnaround plan and slowly trading our way back, but ultimately could not weather the cumulative impacts of Covid, inflation and the cost of living crisis,” Hisbe said.
The “rebel” supermarket was founded in 2013 by sisters Ruth and Amy Anslow and Jack Simmonds, with the premise of showing the grocery industry it was possible to do business in a fairer and more sustainable way.
A community enterprise, Hisbe mainly stocked a network of 135 mainly local, independent suppliers, to which it paid back a significant amount of profits. More sustainable packaging solutions, minimal levels of waste and a commitment pay workers throughout its stores and supply chain fairly for their work were among the other commitments made as part of Hisbe’s “rebel values”.
The company relied heavily on crowdfunding, and as recently as September had been seeking fundraising to open a third Sussex store in Lewes.
‘Many’ suppliers left with unpaid invoices
Following the liquidation, all staff have been made redundant and were paid for their shifts and holiday during December and January. Their notice pay would be “looked after” as part of the administration process, Hisbe said.
The business had taken £15m through its tills in the decade since it was founded, £10m of which was passed back to suppliers. However, the liquidation would leave “many” with unpaid invoices, Hisbe said.
“It’s creating enormous personal and financial stress for some of them – and we are sad and sorry that it has come to this,” Hisbe added.
Addressing suppliers, customers and all supporters directly in the statement, Ruth Anslow and Jack Simmonds said:
“Thank you for the concern and support that’s come through our networks. Those of you who walk in founders’ shoes know the impossible workload of holding all the jobs that you can’t afford to pay experts to do, the operational pressures of the last four years and the resilience and personal sacrifice it takes to keep finding solutions and keep going. Right now, we are hurting and exhausted.
“But we are also thankful for this journey – and grateful to every supplier, customer, staff member, investor and supporter who was part of it. Together we created something beautiful and kept it going for 10 years, against all the odds.
“We hope that our rebel supermarket sowed a seed of change – and we trust that the important work to transform the food industry will continue through others,” the statement added.