Magazine article Marketing

Brand Health Check: The Body Shop

Magazine article Marketing

Brand Health Check: The Body Shop

Article excerpt

Anita Roddick's cruelty-free beauty products blazed the trail for ethical shoppers in the 80s, but the brand has since lost its lead to non-specialist retailers. Rachel Barnes reports

The Body Shop was set up in 1976 as a means for an idealistic wife and mother - Anita Roddick - to earn a living while her husband was on a two-year horseback trip across the Americas. From its humble beginnings as a Brighton shop selling all-natural concoctions packaged in urine sample bottles, it grew into an international business with more than 200 stores in 50 countries and worldwide sales of pounds 700m.

But that's where the rose-tinted view of the cruelty-free health and beauty retailer ends. The Body Shop's once unique selling proposition has been eroded by supermarkets and other non-specialists over the past decade.

While global sales have steadily grown over the past four years, UK operations have underperformed. Retail sales growth in the UK flatlined in 2002.

The situation worsened with a 1% fall during 2003, culminating in a 10% decline this year.

Global sales in 2004 were flat, but there was a 5% sales growth in the US. The man who turned around The Body Shop's US fortunes, chief executive Peter Saunders, now operates in the UK as part of a concerted effort to replicate that success here.

There are signs of change. In its results for the year to February 2004, the retailer announced a pounds 100m investment that included opening more than 300 stores over the next three years globally. About 20% of that has been earmarked for the UK.

A loyalty scheme, Love Your Body, was introduced in June to drive sales, with store revamps next on the agenda - a new-look format is due to open in Covent Garden in the next few weeks. The Body Shop logo is also being redeveloped to make the brand more appealing to women. But is tweaking the typeface enough?

We asked Gordon Lee, head of marketing at Ann Summers, for a retailer view, and Al Young, executive creative director at St Luke's, who worked on the Body Shop account from 1993 to 1994, for a creative perspective.

DIAGNOSIS 1 - GORDON LEE, HEAD OF MARKETING, ANN SUMMERS

There was a time when The Body Shop was innovative, unconventional and challenging. But it missed a trick: this was the time to diversify into other sectors. Instead it settled for simply selling 'green' cosmetics, only for the competition to gradually do it cheaper and better. It is now left with nice stores, nice products and a rather dull brand.

Whether it's because we first kissed to the scent of White Musk or because we admire its tree-hugging attitude, there's an underlying affection for The Body Shop. …

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