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When Sol de Janeiro Rules Supreme, Is There Room for The Body Shop?

The beauty label has fallen under administration with plans to cut staff and stores. How did the ultimate purveyor of uber-perfumed creams and fragrances and purpose-driven brand messages, which seem so relevant now, fall so far?
A store front
The Body Shop was once considered a radical disruptor in the beauty landscape. (Getty Images)

For the last few days, The Body Shop has consumed the beauty news cycle.

After falling into administration last week, The Guardian reported on Sunday that many of the brand’s fair trade suppliers were left with more than $1 million worth of beauty ingredients that may never paid for; by Tuesday, the company announced that it was planning to cut 300 corporate roles and close almost half of its 198 stores in the UK. The rapid fire news came just months after Natura & Co sold The Body Shop in a huge price cut to private investment group Aurelius Group for $254 million in November (Natura & Co purchased the brand in 2017 for $1.1 billion).

The Body Shop was once considered a radical disruptor in the beauty landscape. Founder Anita Roddick’s products used natural ingredients that were ethically sourced and weren’t tested on animals. The label often extolled social issues, supporting organisations like Greenpeace, while also selling dewberry perfumes and my personal favourite, mango body butters.

“There was something boutique-y about it, which was really nice,” Sarah Brown, executive director of the Violet Lab at Violet Grey, told The Business of Beauty. “It felt personal and sort of quirky, wholesome.”


You could argue that The Body Shop was the original purpose-driven beauty brand. It also made body care, a booming category today, as relevant and important for teens and young adults as makeup.

But just because The Body Shop was the first to bring social issues or body care to the fore doesn’t mean its original ethos still resonates.

Aurelius Group certainly has questions about the feasibility of the label’s purpose-driven roots. It’s understood that The Body Shop’s entire team focused on activism has been dismantled by the investment group. (Aurelius is the label’s third owner after L’Oréal purchased the line in 2006 for £652 million ($825 million); Natura & Co later bought the line in 2017.)

Beyond that The Body Shop’s standalone store mix seems outdated and far too large. In the nearly 50 years since the brand has been in existence, specialty beauty outposts are where consumers prefer to shop versus owned stores (except for rare instances like Glossier). Even Lush, a fellow body brand which held onto its direct roots for decades, entered Ulta Beauty last November.

“There has to be a real reason to go into a store,” said Anita Bhagwandas, British beauty journalist and consultant. “It should have pivoted much quicker and much earlier to being a real trendsetter.”

I can’t remember the exact date I first stepped into one of The Body Shop’s stores — I’m guessing its was sometime in the early 2000s in San Antonio, Texas, which is where my family and I went to buy anything of importance i.e. back to school clothes from Laredo — but I do remember its sophisticated but still playful vibe. It was one of the first times I had the chance to test and try beauty in an open, self-select environment without an older department store associate worrying I was going to junk up a lipstick. And yet it wasn’t a free for all like Bath and Body Works or Victoria’s Secret that enveloped you with scent the moment you walked in the door. Still, The Body Shop’s products, namely its body butters, were plenty fragrant.

Which makes The Body Shop’s biggest issue, its product woes, all the more strange.

Yes, corporate hierarchy and a lack of investment in stores were the first signs of demise, but what teens and young adults loved in the early 2000s are fairly similar to what Gen-Z and Gen Alpha want to buy today. According to Piper Sandler’s annual Taking Stock of Teens Survey, brands of my youth like Bath & Body Works and Victoria’s Secret still rank among the top three fragrance brands with US teens; unsurprisingly Sol de Janeiro ranks second.


Beauty is in the midst of a body care boom, something that The Body Shop couldn’t have predicted but could have capitalised on. And yet the line, which championed strong, powerful, lastingly perfumed products and made body care a thing, ultimately lost out by not modernising its core proposition.

Here are my top picks from our insight and analysis on beauty and wellness this week:

1. Kosas Masters the Art of Reinvention

A selection of Kosas products including its sunscreen, foundation, concealer, skin enhancer and powder.
Kosas complexion products. (Ian Flanigan/Kosas)

First with Gwyneth Paltrow and now with TikTok’s Gen-Z beauty queens, Kosas has charted a course to growth through rebranding, new products and customer base expansion.

2. How ‘Anti-Spas’ Sell Wellness to Men

A man in an ice bath
Half of Remedy Place’s customers are Millennial men, representing a majority of its highest-spending customers with some shelling out $27,000 a year at the club. (Remedy Place)

Remedy Place, a luxury social wellness club, has completely rebranded the spa experience via athletic recovery with an eye on the male demographic. The company has an ambitious plan to expand starting with its third and largest 7,400-square-foot club in New York’s SoHo neighbourhood this spring and an upcoming product line that brings self-care to the home.

3. Inside India’s Niche Fragrance Takeover

A woman sitting in a field of flowers
Modern-Indian fragrance brands are re-imagining and reclaiming local, indigenous ingredients to bring forward a new perfumery language to the fragrance industry. (LilaNur Parfums)

A new crop of local perfume brands are reclaiming indigenous ingredients and reviving ancient fragrance-making techniques. But will that be enough to entice Indian consumers to swap international luxury perfumes for perfumes made at home?

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The Business of Beauty Global Awards - Deadline 30 April 2024