Ethical supermarket

Hisbe opened its first store in Brighton in 2013

Brighton-based social enterprise Hisbe has paused trading, and temporarily closed its two stores while it seeks funding to pay its debts.

Last week signs appeared in the windows of its two stores in Brighton and Worthing apologising to customers that the shops were closed. The chain then confirmed the “temporary” closure via its social media channels.

“Following a painful four-year battle through Covid and the cost of living crisis, we had a disappointing Christmas trading period and our recovery funding hasn’t come through,” Hisbe said in the statement.

“So we have paused trading because it’s the responsible thing to do in our circumstances. Hisbe owes money to staff, suppliers and lenders and we are exploring all options to raise funds to pay our creditors.”

Hisbe – which stands for How It Should Be – was founded in 2013 by sisters Ruth and Amy Anslow, and Jack Simmonds on the premise of being “more affordable, more fair and more sustainable” than the traditional supermarket giants.

The self-styled “rebel” retailer bucked stocking products made by global conglomerates in favour of a network of small, predominantly local suppliers and farmers. Hisbe donated as much as 67p in every pound spent in store back to its supply base.

To reduce waste, Hisbe stocked products loose where possible and redistributed unsold food to local community groups, among a string of other initiatives. 

Hisbe heavily relied on crowdfunding to fund its growth, with initial backers including BodyShop co-founder Gordon Roddick. When The Grocer interviewed the three-founders in June 2018, they expressed aspirations to grow to as many as 10 stores over the next five years.

The Covid-19 pandemic delayed the opening of the second site in Worthing in 2021, and Hisbe had begun crowdfunding in July to help support the opening of a third store in Lewes.

“We hope this is a temporary closure and we can find a way for this social enterprise to go forward and continue its important work. But it will take some time to figure out,” the statement added.

“Painful times…! And very daunting. But we know we’re in the same boat as hundreds of other local small businesses right now… Solidarity to all of you out there going through this. After 13 years, this is our hardest challenge yet,” the statement finished.

The Grocer has contacted Hisbe for further comment.