The Body Shop – Are they on the way out?

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In the last quarter the Body Shop’s like for like sales were down 7.5%. Jobs are already going – 275 worldwide.

I first became aware of the Body Shop back in the seventies. I come from near Brighton and used to see what I guess was their first shop on shopping trips to the town. The Body Shop’s growth in the cosmetic business has been a constant backdrop since then. I have never worked for them, not directly at any rate, but I have known plenty of people who have. I have always had a reasonable level of respect for the company.

I was very informally approached to work for them – more of a sounding out really – and at the time I felt that their outlook and mine weren’t compatible. This was back when they had ‘ethical audits’ checking that you were aware of the issues surrounding meat eating. I liked some of the environmental initiatives, like purifying all the water used in their headquarters through reed beds. But I didn’t think I could cope with the whole new age thing week in week out.

But on the whole I have always had fairly positive views of the Body Shop. I was really surprised when Anita Roddick sold the business to L’Oreal. I had long realised that the Body Shop was not really that idealistic any more, if it had ever been. But even so, it did seem that in the end Anita was more interested in a huge pile of money than in promoting her ideas. Perhaps I am niave, but I was disappointed.

I heard about the job losses a little bit before the news came out, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t actually been into a branch for a very long time. So I popped into my nearest one.

My first thought was how depressing it seemed. The obviously not overworked staff had approached me to ask if they could help within about 10 seconds of my crossing the threshold. I suppose that is a good thing from most people’s point of view, but it was a bit annoying when I just wanted to browse. There were all the familiar bottles. Coloured with synthetic colours, as they always have been. Preserved with conventional preservatives like parabens, again as always. I had heard a story that they planned to go completely preservative free. Well they haven’t remotely done so yet. They now stock a range of colour cosmetics. I couldn’t see anything about them to make them different to say Rimmel. There were no posters relating to any campaigns to save the environment or promote the welfare of women – not unless you count the one promoting the body butter range as a suitable Mother’s day gift.

Basically the whole thing seemed a bit tired and rather pointless.

Brands come and go, and nothing lasts forever. I wonder if the Body Shop is now finally on the way out?

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