Sad and a bit grumpy

Sad and a bit grumpy 1920 1280 Caroline Klein

I was taken aback by how sad I was to read the news that the Body Shop has called in administrators. Without wishing to generalise too much, I suspect many women of a similar age might sympathise.

The overwhelming scent of White Musk in school changing rooms, the heady hit of Dewberry bath pearls, the furious shrieks of my parents after slipping on the remains of said bath pearls, the strong anti-animal testing policy, the novelty of being able to refill your body wash bottles – at a time when teenagers were more and more educated and passionate about the impact we have on our environment –  and countless weekend hours whiled away browsing mascaras and bronzers… all of these are fond memories. They form part of my adolescence and more than that, my education.  The Body Shop was a campaigning brand, was clear about what it stood for and was hugely influential.

In a recent Sunday Times article, Mark Constantine wrote that without the Body Shop, he would never have founded Lush.  It made me think about brands that change and adapt with the times, and those that seem light years ahead at some point and then just slip behind. Of course, multiple owners, changes in business strategy and lack of investment all contribute to a business falling behind.

But surely communicating must play its part.  We are living in a time when many consumers do care passionately about the impact they make. Brands such as Lush and Faith in Nature cater to these concerns and big multinationals have also joined the bandwagon. It ought to be the perfect era for the Body Shop, which finally brought back refillable bottles in 2021. The cost to the customer is lower if using refills, all haircare and fragrance product packaging is apparently 100% recycled plastic, the brand has always been “forever against animal testing”, and they have partnered with organisations like Cruelty Free International, the Ellen Macarthur Foundation and The Vegan Society to create a brighter world. All surely catnip to Gen Z and beyond.

Yet customers need to know these things in order to understand them, support them and spend their money.  It seems not enough people did. Was the firm not shouting to the rooftops about its own credentials? Was management not behind such efforts?

So I’m sad and yes, somewhat grumpy, about the possible demise of the Body Shop. It’s a lesson to all of us that communicating what you do, why you do it and why it matters is vital in business and beyond. I shall keep it in mind.