7 February 2018 Issue 21 Feb/Mar

Pulling down the shop shutters

How a bricks-and-mortar misfire pushed HiLo away from opening its own shops to sell healthy lunch pots.

HiLo is one of many new food companies attempting to sell healthy lunches to office workers in London.

After 10 months of planning, prototyping and testing, HiLo opened a tiny shop window in Broadgate Circle by Liverpool Street station in July 2017.

It didn’t last long: three months later, co-founders Tiffany Arntson and Jasper Wight (pictured) pulled the shutters down for the last time.

Feeble footfall

Arntson and Wight had decided to open the Broadgate Circle site – signing an 18-month lease – following a successful week-long pop-up nearby at Old Street tube station in May.

But they quickly discovered the format at Broadgate wasn’t working for HiLo. Local workers walked past the kiosk in favour of more familiar option.

‘At Broadgate we discovered a small group of really loyal customers who were nuts about HiLo,’ Arntson reflects. ‘But the reality was they were a niche audience in a mainstream location.’

Shifting focus

HiLo was still selling its pots in co-working spaces, which is how it started out in 2016. In the summer of 2017, HiLo lunch pots were also sold for the first time in retailers, such as independent deli chain Sourced Market, which began stocking the pots after the founder saw Wight eating one at the Ministry of Startups in Spitalfields, where both businesses were based.

Wight crunched the numbers and realised that while HiLo was selling about 20% more through the Broadgate Circus site, it was three times more expensive to run compared to selling in Sourced Market and the co-working spaces combined.

The other options

Shutting the shop seemed like an obvious option. The founders don’t rule out opening in another location in the future, but have decided to focus on selling via co-working spaces and exploring more opportunities with third-party retailers such as Sourced Market.

‘We stopped [our own shop] before it stopped us,’ says Arntson. ‘On paper that could be seen as a failure, but we know people love the product because they keep coming to us.’