Tree of Life and The Health Store enter administration

Via statements on their websites it has been confirmed that Tree of Life and The Health Store have entered administration.

The ‘affairs, business and property’ of both major health food wholesalers – owned by Health Made Easy Group – are now being managed by joint administrators Chris Pole and Ryan Grant of Interpath Advisory, who were appointed on 22 August to act as insolvency practitioners by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

Health Made Easy – which also owns Peppersmith and Higher Nature – is yet to release a statement about the developments but NPN understands it is their intention to do so.

The Peppersmith website states: “We’re sorry to say we’re not able to take orders at present. We’re doing everything we can to be back up and running soon. Sorry for any inconvenience caused.”

Higher Nature’s website currently displays no such message.

In July, following rumours that the business was preparing to enter administration, Health Made Easy Group told NPN that the group had recently ‘undertaken a reorganization of the business, which has included management’ and was ‘looking to realign its banking facilities to fit and support its revised strategy’.

“The group is facing up to the challenging circumstances of inflation impact and supply issues, as are many businesses at this time. We are working collaboratively alongside our longstanding suppliers and customers.”

NPN has contacted Health Made Easy Group and Interpath Advisory for comment.

Retailer reaction

Niki Davies, owner of Chester Health Store, told NPN reporter Matt Chittock that she feels ‘sad and angry’:

“The management have let an awful lot of retailers down. For weeks we’ve not been able to order what we wanted. [Tree of Life] staff had been a bit vague and then I saw from Facebook that they’ve gone into administration. I asked them if there [was] actually any stock in the warehouse on 17 August.

“Before they demutualized I was on the committee with a couple of other retailers. We fought really hard against this demutualization. We were just trying to tell as many people ‘Do not vote for demutualization, I know you’ll get your shares money’ – but, you know, in the longer term, it’s not a good thing.

Retailers have been kept in the dark

“That was beginning at the end, in my opinion, anyway. Retailers have been kept in the dark. The only reason that we started questioning things was when trying to go on their web ordering, and whole ranges are out of stock on basic items. And it turns out, they’ve been not been paying the bills. And they were screaming at retailers. I had one invoice for at £118 that was overdue. I got a red email for it.

“I’m just going to have to try and find another wholesaler. I’m quite lucky in that we don’t sell that much food here and most of my supplements come direct from suppliers.”

NAHS comment

Avril McCracken, administrator for the National Association of Health Stores, made the following statement:

“The loss of Tree of Life and The Health Store will be felt right across our entire industry.  Not only was THS a valued patron of the NAHS, but the company was actually set up via NAHS in 1932 to serve the newly evolving health food trade. Our thoughts are with all of the staff who have lost their jobs and we are currently working with our members to help them overcome this heavy blow to their supply chain.”

A sector ‘stunned’

Helen Kennefick, founder of Health and Wholefood – a sales agency which works with health store – tells NPN she was ‘stunned’ by the ‘sad’ developments: “We were in very regular communications with The Health Store especially, and my thoughts go out to all of the wonderful employees who suddenly find themselves without employment as well as the many suppliers who have outstanding invoices – some of which, I understand, are considerable and will have lasting impacts on their businesses.”

As to how it will impact her own business, Kennefick says: “Fortunately we have always advised the brands we represent to spread their availability – and as such, risk – throughout the industry to ensure strong distribution routes to all areas of the UK. Only one brand has been affected and I spent [Tuesday] morning organizing new routes to market for them, minimizing their exposure before any issues arose. I am sure for many brands who are reliant on TOL and THS for their sole distribution will find the recent developments … hugely stressful. Thankfully we have many fabulous wholesalers who service the stores either on a national or regional basis and I am sure that they will do their best to help these brands as quickly as possible.”

No-one foresaw this happening

Among the brands serviced by Health and Wholefood, the general reaction ‘has been one of shock’. “Though many had considered one or the other closing after the purchase of The Health Store by the Health Made Easy Group, no-one foresaw this happening. The independent health store market has always been one of adaptability and support and I am sure this will clearly be seen in the coming days, weeks and months. With inflation as it is, the industry continues to move forward during already difficult trading times and I wish all the very best for those hit with redundancies and hope that they find new employment swiftly.”

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Having spent the early part of career putting her BA (Hons) in Media Writing to use as a freelancer writer across a number of industries – from wellbeing, food and travel to design and events – Rosie Greenaway’s post as editor of Natural Products News and Natural Beauty News began in 2017. In 2018 she co-launched NPN’s 30 under 30 initiative, is a regular presenter and speaker on industry panels, is a judge of several awards schemes in food and beauty (from the Soil Association’s BOOM Awards to the Who’s Who in Green Beauty Scandinavia) and acts as an Advisory Board Member for the Sustainable Beauty Coalition.