Beauty And Retail Insiders Offer The Body Shop’s New Owner Suggestions For How To Revive The Storied Chain
Last week, Natura & Co announced it’s selling The Body Shop to Aurelius Group in a deal valued at around $280 million. Founded in 1976 by Anita Roddick with a store in the English city Brighton, The Body Shop was an early pioneer of corporate responsibility. A big believer in business as a force for good, Roddick established its mission to fight against animal testing and for human rights.
In 2006, L’Oréal acquired The Body Shop, and Natura picked it up 11 years later from L’Oréal. Aurelius, which describes itself as a “specialist for complex investments with operative improvement potentials,” is taking over a global network of around 800 stores that’s been weakened in recent years by The Body Shop’s slumping sales and brand deterioration.
Despite The Body Shop’s diminished state, it holds a prominent place in beauty industry history and the retail landscape. We were curious if retail, beauty and wellness insiders believe it can regain relevance. So, for the latest edition of our ongoing series posing questions germane to indie beauty, we asked 17 of them the following question: If you were given the opportunity to reimagine The Body Shop, what would you do to make it relevant to today’s consumers?
- Wizz Selvey Retail Strategy Advisor, WIZZ&CO
The Body Shop was revolutionary in the 1970s, but there are now a huge number of brands with ethical values, and truly all brands must evolve their ethics to future-proof themselves. The ethical beauty market has become saturated, which is why The Body Shop has struggled to scale in recent years.
They need to ensure they align with future consumer trends, how customers want to shop and create a statement in the industry to get engagement. This positioning piece is the backbone to any brand, and if it does not evolve with consumer and retail trends, brands fall behind and where I do a lot of work with legacy brands and indie brands.
One of the trends I predict will trounce “clean beauty” in 2024 is biotechnology, harnessing the power of nature for lab-made skincare and body care. Customers want high performance, and although there is a desire for natural and sustainable, the consumer wants to know more, whether this is the potency of products and ingredients, the performance or provenance. The Body Shop needs to invest in further refining their product range.
The second movement is sustainability. This is complex with many areas to focus on, but crucial. As we are seeing a lot of “greenwashing,” there is confusion and a growing lack of trust from consumers. The Body Shop has an opportunity to lead in this and is in the position to educate more consumers and make an impact with the scale they already have.
One of the main successes of The Body Shop was being a founder-led brand in the ‘70s. This helped communicate the mission and vision of the business. It is more transparent than ever who owns brands, from corporates to founders. Once brands are acquired, it can put off a segment of ethical customers who now have a plethora of brands to choose from that will align more closely to their values. Once Aurelius defines the direction of The Body Shop, having ambassadors and a leadership team that communicate the direction and purpose would be a powerful way to engage customers.
The Body Shop needs to review their offering and reposition themselves in a swiftly evolving market as well as focusing on a unique customer experience that gives customers a reason to enter their shops. Creating connection with customers is a huge opportunity, educating them on the future of beauty and ethics of consumerism along with their vision and mission. Trends I forecast are consumers engaging with community for more engagement and loyalty, so focuses could be events, loyalty programs and a membership-style program.
- Neil Saunders Managing Director for Retail, GlobalData
With sustainability and environmental issues moving up the consumer agenda, this should, at least in theory, be The Body Shop’s time to shine. Unfortunately, the opposite is true: The brand has lost a lot of its luster. Part of this is because many other firms have moved onto the sustainable turf, so this is no longer a unique point of difference.
The Body Shop should not ditch its heritage and must keep this as a core part of the proposition. However, it needs to develop other clear points of view to pull in customers. Much of this relies on creating brilliant, hero products that help solve consumer problems and issues across areas like skincare, something that Body Shop currently lacks.
Alongside this the brand needs a boost through better advertising and marketing and perhaps even wider distribution of some of its products. Unfortunately, The Body Shop has fallen off the consumer radar and is not a destination like it once was. It should also review its store locations, especially in the U.S. It should be in some of the up-and-coming locations like outdoor mixed-use malls to boost visibility.
- Sanela Lazic Founder, SA.LA Retail Studio and Saint Iris
The Body Shop had a real point of difference and stood out on the high street as a pioneer, from product innovation, social responsibility to brand identity and store experience. In amongst the sea of generic stores, it had a perfect balance of a marketplace and well-being store for customers to explore the wonders of natural aromas and ingredients. In its heyday, it was a true treasure trove.
Somewhere along the way the brand got overtaken by the mainstream giants and a growing independent brands movement that spearheaded natural and clean formulations in response to customers’ lifestyle needs. The customer relationships became personal and brand owners listened and evolved fast to sharpen the offer through engaging pop-ups and social media forums.
The Body Shop has done a phenomenal job in championing ethical and socially responsible initiatives. However, many brands now sit under cruelty-free or B Corp banner, with their stores not much different than Holland & Barrett or Whole Foods beauty. The cost stripping is evident, from the reduction in product numbers and simpler display fixtures, which has left The Body Shop stores appear a paler shade of green in comparison to its competitors.
What I’d do to reimagine The Body Shop:
- Its product formulas have either lost the original appeal or they’re a bit dated or not advanced enough, and this will be a key part to get right to gain new customers (but not necessarily younger ones only) and to reconnect with its older customers who grew up with the brand. One route is to integrate technology and bio-tech innovation in ingredients and NPD laboratories, so to reduce reliance on virgin ingredients that put further strain on our ecosystems, innovate in solid or waterless and explore wider wellness product categories such as intimate beauty as well as develop superior packaging options that are biodegradable and not only recyclable.
- Retail and beauty are increasingly about collaborations, and I can see The Body Shop coming together with other brands, experts or thought leaders to bring out products and concepts that intrigue and stimulate customers or ask “what if” questions that further shape the beauty, well-being and retail formats.
- The Body Shop boasts ethical excellence, yet it lacks desirability that today’s customers want, particularly in the current climate of economic uncertainty. Just being natural or offering refillable products is not enough to delight and inspire, this concept has evolved and become ubiquitous. There is a huge potential for The Body Shop store experience to be much more interactive and multifaceted as hangouts and community hubs or places to see and be seen. Their impressive social responsibility initiatives should underpin it, but not be all and end all, instead the stores should focus on ways to serve its customers. Furthermore, there is a potential to diversify and see The Body Shop in third-party retail as a catalyst for natural beauty with a modern “glow-up” feel as Aesop did in department stores with their cool concessions that brought in new customers in droves.
- The Body Shop online experience needs to be more intuitive and easier to explore each category as well as personalized via AI or an app. (There is an app for the UAE region only). I’d consider how the store and online connect. Currently, they feel like two brands. There is a big opportunity for online and offline to come closer together, from in-store events and online forums, mentorships and co-creations to bring smarter beauty, holistic lifestyle products and initiatives into the world.
It’s all up for grabs, and I look forward to seeing how the Aurelius Group reimagine this iconic brand.
- Angela Umelo Founder and CEO, Salt + Earth Labs
The Body Shop needs to actually make formulas that are natural and affordable. People have become more ingredient savvy, so they need more principles around this, and there is still room for innovation here.
They should focus on elevating the body care segment with gifts and fragrance and reduce skin care. They've tried to do much with makeup, etc., but need a different strategy. Why are they not the "clean and classy" Bath & Body works, for example?
They were the originators of brand activism under Anita. They need to rediscover this sense of purpose. Cruelty-free is no longer a unique selling point, but they should still be a mission-led company first. They say all the right things in terms of buzzwords, but it’s not clear what they are doing.
They should get back to the community-building ethos, both in terms of community trade (their own fair-trade mission), but also locally. The Body Shop office was a pillar of the Littlehampton community at some point.
Lastly, be carefully not to follow the crowd and trends. It can seem disingenuous when they do. They need to zig while everyone else zags if they ever want to be leaders again.
- Susannah Dellinger Founder and CEO, Bright Beauty Collective
First, I would return to the root of looking at what made Body Shop explode a couple decades ago. They were one of the first to speak to positive impact on the planet and animals, and it resonated with the consumer. Today's shopper is even savvier about ingredients and looking for brands that are socially involved.
Removing artificial fragrance from all products would be a costly move, but with big payoff. Artificial fragrance is widely recognized as not just a skin irritant, but also a major polluter to our waterways and marine life along with being a known hormone disruptor. This would signal that The Body Shop is once again leading the way in personal care that is good for you and the planet.
Body Shop also is involved in many initiatives around the world, but appears to be a bit quiet in how they engage the customer in this. It would be super intriguing, for example, to have contests to win a trip to where some of the social impact is most seen or even develop a fund in each country that is a scholarship to help female entrepreneurs in addition allowing customers seasonally to "vote" on the cause they want to see a portion of the proceeds to go to to make sure they are bringing their community at large into this.
This also brings up the community aspect. The more that Body Shop can activate outside of its own retail locations in community sponsored events, whether it's hosting panels, etc., the more they can rebuild their once extremely loyal fanbase. They can also activate their own stores post-regular hours and hold community events with a portion of any sales from the day going back to a very local organization. Thinking locally globally would create deep roots and further trust in their communities, a huge focus of many retailers as we go into 2024.
Consumers are also excited about customization and the feeling of one-of-a-kind, unique-to-them products. Introducing a custom body blend bar, where shoppers could interact with knowledgeable instructors on which ingredients would be soothing, healing, firming, brightening, etc., to address the customers’ specific skin concerns and adding the exact ingredients of their choice would be very interesting. It would also be interesting to test this with face products as well.
Lastly, I would deepen the recycling program and look at a partnership with Pact so that The Body shop could be a destination for any consumer wanting to responsibly send back products whether from Body Shop or not.
By revisiting the core of what made The Body Shop magic and looking around the world at what their local communities are interested in, I believe they would experience exponential growth.
- Katie Klencheski Founder and CEO, SMAKK Studios
The Body Shop has an amazing corporate heritage of environmental responsibility, and we’ve seen brands like Patagonia lean into their histories with great success. I’d advise The Body Shop to build on their heritage by embracing the concept of radical transparency in their sourcing and ingredient stories. We’ve seen brands like Ingredients and The Inkey List do this with huge success wooing gen Z consumers. In addition to radical transparency on ingredients, brands like Ritual and Seed take this further by talking about sourcing as well as environmental and social impact.
This strategic move aligns with the company's core values and builds on their history of corporate activism while strengthening the opportunities for the brand to build compelling product stories. The creative opportunities this would allow from campaigns to packaging could be incredibly impactful and are built for layered and robust storytelling.
Next, I’d suggest that they relaunch product collections or create a new line aiming for a major cool factor. Right now, the brand feels like it’s afraid to make waves and the resulting product lineup is ho hum, marketing to everyone and no one at the same time. A new collection that integrates refills and attention-getting design would help turn the heads of new consumers who expect high design in their skincare products.
The Body Shop needs to take a big swing, either looking back to their roots with some serious ‘70s nostalgia (à la Bathing Culture or Vacation) or thinking about the maximalist aesthetics that are overtaking millennial minimalism (like Milk Makeup and Topicals) or even going more high design with unexpected materials and reusable forms (like Humanrace, Costa Brazil and ByHumankind).
Lastly, The Body Shop operates at a price point that’s attractive to gen Z consumers who talk as much about price democracy as they do about corporate responsibility. Gen Z appreciates brands that break away from traditional beauty standards and offer products that prioritize effectiveness over prestige. The Body Shop’s product collections are similarly focused on core ingredients and this emphasis on individual active ingredients rather than elaborate marketing claims appeals to gen Z's desire for effective, cost-sensitive and evidence-based skincare.
- Greta Fitz Founder and CEO, Ascention Parfums
The Body Shop was way ahead of its time. When I was a teenager in the 90s, I would go to the mall, and I loved going to The Body Shop because there was a fragrance bar, and they had all the oils in what looked like a big pipe organ. On a Friday night, a group of us would go and play with all the oils. We would layer them, and we would make lotions and potions. We would buy the base for whatever lotion we wanted, and then we would fill it up based on how strong we wanted it or whichever bespoke flavor we created.
Now, fast forward 30 years, this is what all brands are doing with their products. This is what Le Labo started in terms of batching it fresh for you. So, if they can go back to that concept with an updated approach, gen Z and alpha would eat that up, especially with the content they can create in their stores. The key is to keep it super experiential and bespoke in their stores. Over the years, The Body Shop lost this as their key point of difference.
- Sweta Doshi Founder, Bubbsi
The Body Shop was founded in the mid-1970's when clean beauty standards were nearly nonexistent and that was enough to become the brand’s unique proposition. Nearly 50 years later in a world where clean standards are almost table stakes, there’s no longer a compelling identity behind the concept.
Consumers want to be told a unique story. So, if I could reimagine The Body Shop, it would start by identifying a much more specific target audience, crafting a story to tell them and utilizing the physical retail space in more experiential ways.
One idea would be capitalizing on the still booming health and wellness lifestyle, with a rebrand focused on body care as self-care both inside and out. Think Alo Yoga/Vuori/Outdoor Voices, but for body care. The product messaging could still be ingredient-led, but more focused on emotional benefits. The stores could feel light and airy and be utilized for wellness activations like Pilates and yoga classes, followed by wind-down or restorative massages with their products.
Another direction could be a problem-solution, clinical angle that leans on product lines that speak to specific body care concerns that are currently underrepresented in the masstige market. While facial skincare is saturated with brands, there are still very few body care brands outside of the drugstore that look to solve concerns like eczema, keratosis pilaris, psoriasis. This can also be paired with in-store consultations and treatments.
- Sonia Summers Founder and CEO, Beauty Barrage
I really love The Body Shop. I have to say that they were the first on the scene when it came to green, organic or clean beauty. Their messaging was strong, and their stores were like a playground where you literally stay and play. You also got to learn about ingredients, essential oils and sustainability, etc.
They were way ahead of their time. If I had the opportunity to revive the brand, I would not necessarily reimagine it, but I would go back to their roots, bring the experiential factor back in and the wonderful history of the brand as a true pioneer. While I am at it, I would change the packaging to make it more pleasing and even try to make components refillable, etc., so that it would be following in their DNA footsteps.
- Margarita Arriagada Founder, Valdé Beauty
Ironically, I actually think the original vision for The Body Shop is more relevant than ever. Specifically, the aspects of being globally community-inspired, socially conscious and a force for good. The issue lies in the execution of that original vision to reflect the current climate all the way around, from understanding the market is saturated to natural/clean and sustainable being now table stakes. There are brands like Beautycounter that have stepped into the role of being activists in the clean beauty space and are driving social impact.
While I'm sure there will be some fast redirection from the new owners to extract value, what I would hope is that they have the courage to make the original promise a reality because it is still a need gap opportunity. There isn't a globally inspired brand deeply rooted and committed to the vision of creating products and experiences for the purpose of impacting the planet and communities.
More than ever and especially younger consumers, we are craving real authenticity and impact. No amount of tactical marketing savvy and/or seemingly new products can camouflage the lack of real commitment. I hope this is realized.
I would start with bringing the nostalgic 1990s packaging, store design and footprint back. Americans and the world really need a retail experience that brings joy and optimism.
Also, The Body Shop should rebuild its community and capitalize on its original customers, gen X, as well as focus on gen Y/millennials plus members of gen Z who love everything and anything from the ‘90s.
I would love to see a strong throwback gender-neutral/inclusive moment that would build the community with social engagement and marketing. The store and brand could provide us with an escape.
- Edward Hertzman Founder and CEO, Athletech News
Many analysts agree that the lines between beauty and wellness are blurring. In this regard, The Body Shop was a true forerunner of this trend, doing it ethically and sustainably with its health-forward skincare products. Now, they need to extend these practices so that they intersect both at a physical and virtual level with their customers, both young and older generations.
One way of doing this might be to partner with a vibrant and sustainable women’s wellness organization. We’ve recently seen successful partnerships where products and services come together such as Hyperice's collaboration with Pause Studio. We’ve seen similar partnerships with perinatal nutrition, postpartum fitness for new moms and their babies, and menopausal fitness.
If The Body Shop could model itself on this sort of collaboration, where products are just one facet of a beauty-health-fitness continuum, this could infuse some new energy into the company and align them with a growing trend. Another key issue is their price point. Even Gwyneth Paltrow is making her Goop brand more budget friendly. Younger consumers are curious and ready to buy, but price will always win in their final decisions.
The Body Shop would benefit from building a more holistic omnichannel experience, first focusing on growth in e-commerce and enhancing their social channels. The power of the right influencer has the ability to significantly affect the trajectory of a brand and retailer overnight.
The company ethos is so relevant, and they were early adopters of clean beauty and female empowerment, making these values even more authentic. There needs to be more storytelling for customers to be aware of these elements.
They may consider bringing in other "clean" beauty and skincare brands to their retail locations that align with their core values, setting themselves up as another retail authority in this channel.
To maintain that momentum, a company like The Body Shop will have some opportunity to elevate its services in their brick-and-mortar locations. They may choose to offer more hands-on experiences, add treatment rooms and/or a space for events and intimate gatherings that would encourage more educational and lifestyle conversations that are most relevant to their customer. Today’s customer is passionate about personalization and exclusivity, and a space such as this will cater to that desire and bring product to life.
- Vanessa Kuykendall COO, Market Defense
Anita Roddick and The Body Shop remain one of the most compelling founder stories in beauty. My first job in beauty was in the ‘90s at The Body Shop. I aligned with everything its rebel founder Anita stood for: transparency, sustainability, respect for cultural traditions, corporate social responsibility, etc.
I loved that they were willing to ruffle feathers to draw attention to important subjects no one in beauty was talking about. Our store window displays were so controversial, we’d have crowds outside taking pictures.
I would love to see The Body Shop take some risks and reimagine what the store experience could be, make it more immersive and interactive, maybe with a series of pop-ups that could bring back some of the irreverent attitude of the ‘90s. With their history, they should have a louder voice in conversations in our industry around safe ingredients, equitable practices in the workplace and investing in communities, but they will need a corporate team that is willing to connect with the beauty shoppers of today.
Today’s consumer is hungry for that type of transparency and leadership, but it requires a willingness from their new leadership to invite consumers inside in order to build that connection. Will a private equity group be willing to be that open?
- Leilah Mundt Founder and CEO, Crème Collective
One of my favorite ‘90s mall rat pastimes was spending hours in my local Body Shop at The Galleria Mall, Orange Julius in hand. I adored the scents of what I thought were raw, natural ingredients direct from exotic, African farms in the body butters and swatching hundreds of neutral, brown eyeshadows. Back in the ‘90s, the messages of ethical sourcing and animal rights activism connected with me, a beauty-obsessed teenager with a penchant for all things "do-gooder."
Decades later, The Body Shop needs a major glow-up. Its greatest assets are the brick-and-mortar stores and its original hippie-dippie messaging, or in today's industry buzzwords, experience and authenticity.
If I owned the Body Shop, the first thing I would do is refresh the political activism campaigns, which feel a little dull and done. We have come a long way since the ‘70s. What causes align more with today's very savvy beauty consumer, while staying true to the DNA of The Body Shop? Is there a modern "face" who can give the brand a unique look and point of view à la Selena Gomez or Millie Bobby Brown?
The second thing I would do is a total overhaul of the in-store experience. While the merchandising in-store is classic and pretty, it needs a dose of digital. Hero products and new launches should have interactive customer experiences like custom blending scents and show-stopping selfie opportunities.
Being a legacy brand is difficult. While you have brand recognition, staying relevant can feel impossible. In my mind, The Body Shop was an activist brand when they launched. Returning to their roots and values, but finding new ways to bring their brand experience to life is a way to evolve without throwing out their equity.
For example, The Body Shop could take a page out of the Conscious Beauty Collective playbook by partnering with adjacent fair-trade and eco-friendly brands (Everlane or Pangaia, for example) or partnering with a fair-trade smoothie brand to create drinkable renditions of some of their "kitchen logic" best sellers like their mango body butter. They could bring in beauty and wellness brands who align with their values to create pop-up events and draw new customers into their store who are inspired by discovery.
Speaking of events, consumers are looking to retail to do more than shop. The Body Shop could incorporate services into their stores (facials, educational events, etc.). They could also lean into their interesting ingredient heritage by creating more awareness of unique natural, fair-trade ingredients they use and the stories behind them. They should create limited edition capsule collections with new fair-trade ingredients beyond just seasonal fragrance.
Refillable packaging is also a no brainer for The Body Shop and offering recycle stations in their stores for difficult to dispose of beauty products. They could offer a refill station for other refillable brands, too.
- Stacia Prince Co-founder, Control & Chaos
Anybody over a certain age will have a sentimental memory of The Body Shop. There is so much competition now in the natural space. Capitalizing on The Body Shop's iconic status, I think I would be inclined to focus on the hero products and elevate them. Through refined formulations and packaging, recreating the old fan favorites would work best, and in an even smarter way, to tap into nostalgia whilst aligning with contemporary preferences.
Gourmand is quite a trend at present so also an opportunity for them. This approach not only preserves the brand's legacy, but also positions it as a beauty insider's go-to for timeless essentials with a modern twist.
Also, of course, emphasizing ethical practices and incorporating diverse beauty standards will ensure a modern and socially conscious appeal to meet the evolving needs of today's beauty buyers too. They should leverage their digital platforms for that seamless and engaging customer experience too.
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