Economic crisis forces closure of Derby wholefoods co-op Sound Bites

‘We’re making the decision to close the shop on a high, rather than watching it go into what feels like an inevitable steep decline as bills increase’

A wholefood workers’ co-op based in Derby has announced it is shutting shop amid economic pressures and changing customer habits. 

Sound Bites, which has been running for 19 years, is Derby’s only 100% vegan food shop. Starting out with a stall in Derby’s Guildhall market, the ethical shop then moved into premises on The Morledge where it has been for the past 16 years. 

In a statement posted online this week, Sound Bites announced its decision to close, saying: “We’re all constantly being inundated with news about the huge struggles being faced by small businesses during this ongoing cost of living crisis … We’ve been massively impacted by these struggles and we’re making the decision to close the shop on a high, rather than watching it go into what feels like an inevitable steep decline as bills continue to increase.”

Changing consumer behaviour was also cited as a factor in the shop’s closure, with Sound Bites stating that while it still has a loyal customer base, less people are choosing to shop with them since the pandemic. 

“Once upon a time we were one of the only places that catered for specialised diets in Derby, but now supermarkets have latched on to the popularity of veganism and have the buying power to sell things cheaper.”

Sound Bites described this shift as a double edged sword for them, as vegan and organic spending rises, while supermarkets take the place of independents. 

“Independent business owners will ask you how your day’s going, will remember what you like to order and we’ll even remember your pets’ names if you want us to! We’ve watched on with heavy hearts as stall holders with businesses older than ours have been uprooted from the Eagle Market. And in their place are rumours of another supermarket or a 29-storey flat.”

The workers’ co-op called on Derby City Council to “realise the value of having and actively supporting a diverse range of businesses to help the city flourish”.

Sound Bites is the latest in a line of wholefood co-ops across the UK who have closed their doors in the past year, citing similar reasons. In September, Wild Thyme Wholefoods, a workers’ co-op in Portsmouth, announced it would be closing due to increased rent, rising rates and higher energy prices coupled with lower sales. A month earlier, Rice Up Wholefoods in Southampton had closed for similar reasons. 

Sound Bites will close at the end of May, and until then encourage customers to continue to visit the shop and be considerate of the staff’s feelings during this hard time, adding:

“We’d also like to take this opportunity to thank the 18 co-op members that have helped shape the shop over the last two decades and for all of you for making Sound Bites the community driven shop it always has been. We couldn’t have achieved any of this without your support.”