Happening at Planet Organic, London

Peter Marsh has overseen what is one of Europe’s most progressive healthy food retailers since he became CEO in 2008. And that includes introducing nationwide delivery for all of Planet Organic’s products at the end of the pandemic’s first year, 2020. Now he’s retiring. Job done.

“So much has happened since I became CEO in 2008 when we had just five stores,” he says, proudly pointing to today’s 11 stores and a reputation as one of the largest organic food and specialist health retailers in the country.

More important to Peter is the Planet Organic ethos of healthy and sustainable food that 25 years ago was considered a bit quirky but is now mainstream. From fresh food, supplements and body care to organic meals to go, the vast range is chosen so customers can lead healthier lives.

“We have become industry leaders in plastic-free packaging, using almost exclusively recyclable and compostable materials,” says Peter. “We buy ethically and boast zero edible food waste. That our ethos here has now become something for other retailers to aim for is perhaps our best achievement.”

In the last two years the business has raised £10m of long-term equity and debt funding from the consumer-focused fund Inverleith and Triodos bank. Hence the UK-wide fresh delivery service taking the Planet ethos to new communities.

“We successfully opened Queen’s Park 18 months ago, integrated four new stores from our acquisition of As Nature Intended, and now we plan to open a new store in Bermondsey in September,” he adds. That’s not a business cowed by a pandemic and lockdowns.

“One of the best parts of the job has been watching the Planet Organic team grow in skills and confidence. The coaching and development through the Future Leaders and the Retail Academy development programmes has been a big part of this. Everyone has worked tirelessly and successfully during a tough year of COVID and we now have a group of managers more than ready to take on the challenge of new stores.”

Planet Organic’s Chairman Ben Thomson heaps praise on his departing main man: “Peter has championed organic food and other products that keep us healthy. He has believed in sustainable packaging and unpackaged solutions which are good for our planet. And he has understood the community here at Planet Organic from the customers to our team across the 11 stores.

“Peter has calmly steered us through this unprecedented pandemic, as well as Brexit and the day-to-day issues that are in the nature of running a supermarket chain. His successor has much to live up to but will join a business at a time of ongoing growth and with a clear strategy to be right at the centre of healthy and sustainable food and products in the UK.”

The new CEO will be announced around now.

Consumer spending

In June, Kantar noted that physical retail spend had accelerated, with its Worldpanel Plus data showing that UK households spent an extra 18% in May when compared with March, and spend had caught up with the levels seen during summer 2019 – up 0.1% compared with June that year. This will be reassuring for retailers, indicating that shoppers are ready and able to spend, and are comfortable returning to physical stores.

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