I was sad to read that The Body Shop is facing a crisis and that its new owner, the third in seven years! – is expected to put the retailer’s UK business into administration. Aurelius, the private equity firm that bought The Body Shop for £207m in November 2023, took the drastic decision after poor sales during the all-important Christmas shopping season seeped into January. No one knows what this means for The Body Shop’s 200 stores across the country but am sure many will have to close.
The Body Shop was set up by the pioneering late Dame Roddick in 1976, which was talking about ethical products, recycling, and refilling, way back then, which has inspired the beauty sector of today. I love the Body Shop and what Anita stood for, so much so that I included both in my last book, Corporate Social Responsibility Is Not Public Relations, and managed to grab a conversation with the magnificent Löis Acton who was mentored by Anita, through a stroke of serendipity. It’s a magical way that they met, and if you have read any of Anita’s books, it’s so typical of Anita.
In the 1980’s the Body Shop was popular, and there were so many of us in love with the White Musk perfume, the peppermint foot lotion, body lotions, and banana shampoo, which all became Christmas stocking staples. So, how did a brand that was so relevant become irrelevant?!
Well, I think the late Dame Anita Roddick can answer this, as she once said, “Be courageous. It’s one of the only places left uncrowded.” She also said, “If you do things well, do them better, be daring, be first, be different, be just.” Finally – “One of the most intriguing things in management and business is the role of storytelling – people need the anecdotes to do the work that they do.”
And that is what I believe went wrong with The Body. All its various owners lost the connection with its community, it stopped innovating, being different, and courageous and stopped storytelling, it rested on the laurels that Anita built, and it got lazy. Brands need to evolve and inspire; they need to make us want them.
But Anita created something more than a brand, she woke us up to being conscious consumers, about fair trade, what was happening to the planet, about having purpose and being ethical, and so much more. So, I will let Anita have the last word on this…