Supermarket Rebels HISBE Lead the Way

“Why go back to normal when you can go back to better?” – Ruth Anslow

HISBE (How it Should Be) is a community of interest (CIC) supermarket in the coastal town of Brighton in West Sussex, England founded by Jack Simmonds and sisters Amy and Ruth Anslow. Prior to launching the venture in 2013, Jack was a financial analyst, Amy worked in the third sector on behavioural change projects, and Ruth in private sector marketing and sales. Together they agreed that the U.K. food industry was far too reliant on intensive industrialised food production and cheap food, and produced with little regard for either people or the planet. Accordingly, they set out to disturb the status quo by breaking the rules and reinventing the way supermarkets do business.

As a community of interest business, they do not prioritise short term profit for their directors and shareholders. Rather they put the interests of their staff, suppliers, customers and community at the heart of everything they do. They make a fair profit, charge fair and affordable prices for good food, pay their employees fairly, above the living wage, and pay their suppliers 67p for every £1 spent. They employ local people, prioritise local suppliers and help local food entrepreneurs build their businesses. As a consequence, half of the money spent at HISBE stays in the local economy.

Unlike most traditional food retail chains they put people and the planet before money and profit. Their business is founded on 7 core values, namely

  • Good food
  • Local seasonal produce
  • Animal welfare
  • Sustainable food production
  • Zero waste
  • Valued people
  • Ethical business

These have resulted in the pilot store in Brighton being highly successful showing a 12% profit on a €7million turnover year on year, serving 4,000 customers a week, supporting 90 local suppliers and saving some 15,000 pieces of packaging a month. Although it took 2.5 years to prove the model was commercially viable and the store was badly affected by the Covid 19 pandemic, the founders raised £450,000 through a crowdfunding bond, opened a second store in Worthing in January 2021 and have plans for a resilient chain of 10 local stores in Sussex to help scale up their suppliers.

According to Ruth, the team believe “supermarkets can be part of the solution instead of part of the problem” and they are on a mission to reinvent the way supermarkets do business. They want to show it is possible to buck convention and break the mould. Hence, in September 2020, after the Covid 19 lockdown, they launched their “Back to Better” campaign in order to encourage customers to switch from their regular supermarkets to ones like theirs. They recognise that they cannot transform the food industry on their own so they are looking to collaborate with other retailers. They want other independents to copy them and they offer a training Bootcamp, where they share their experience, together with talks and bespoke consultancies. As Ruth says they want “coherence, collaboration and coopetition between us for a higher purpose.” For her, “the fact that there are people around me who care about the same things I passionately care about is what gets me up every single day”.

While recognised as a Social Enterprise by Social Enterprise UK, HISBE is very much a systemic solution to the sustainability challenge, integrating the eco, economic and humane approaches to enterprise as well the social. It harmonises all of the traditional approaches, produces a Triple Bottom line of profit, people and planet and addresses SDGs 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), 13 (Climate Action), 15 (Life on Land) and 17 (Partnerships).

As Dan Hird, Head of Corporate Finance at Triodos Bank UK said in 2020 HISBE is “making it easier for people to consume in a more sustainable way. It’s great HISBE is ready to expand and we are delighted to be raising capital to support it”.

References

Mason, A., (2018), HISBE: a brave new model for food retailers in Brighton. The Grocer. 20 June.

Short, S., (2020), A social Enterprise Supermarket transforming the food industry. Social Enterprise Mark. (https://www.socialentrrprisemark.org.uk

© Harmonious-Entrepreneurship.org (2020-2022). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Harmonious-Entrepreneurship.org with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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