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Gloucestershire Business News

BREAKING: Receivers called in at The Body Shop

A brand that transformed the face of high street retailing in the 1970s is set to be killed off with the announcement of receivers being appointed to The Body Shop chain.

March 27th would mark the the 48th anniversary of the brand, which was founded by environmental campaigner Anita Roddick in Brighton in 1976.

In a deal which saw her receive £130m, Mr Roddick sold The Body Shop to L'Oréal in 2006 for £652.3m, but since November last year the retail giant has been in the hands of global private equity group Aurelius. 

In a statement today, Aurelius indicated that trading over Christmas and into January had been weak, while it is understood that administrators at FRP Advisory have now been called in.

Along with Gloucestershire branches in Eastgate Street, Gloucester, Regency Arcade, Chelltenham and Cricklade Street, Cirencester, some 200 stores now look set to face their final trading days, with 10,000 jobs and a further 12,000 staff employed through franchises. All face an uncertain future.

Today's news is sending shockwaves through retailing, given that The Body Shop's essential legacy is that it blurred the lines between cross-counter sales and social activism. If fashion in the 1980s had a signature scent, the Body Shop's White Musk and Dewberry reined supreme and remain popular decades later.

From the 1970's, the philosophy of Ms Roddick's business approach left rivals looking distinctly frumpy: from the doorway, customers were bombarded with an olfactory experience they had never before known, while key aspects of every shop included dark green décor, locally made skincare products and a service to formulate bespoke perfumes and scents using essential oils.

The Body Shop's shelves were crammed with products in simple containers bearing hand-written labels, while returning customers who brought back their empties for refill were given a discount. 

If much of that sounds redolent of Lush, Mark and Mo Constantine, as the founders of that success story were originally suppliers to The Body Shop after Ms Roddick launched her second outlet in 1977.

In an interview this morning for BBC Radio 4's Today, retail analyst Mary Portas heaped praise on Ms Roddick's vision: "That vanilla scent that wafted as you opened the door... she was the first to go out there with an ethically sounced naturally based ingredients list... She was ahead of the game and the green beauty landscape has transformed now and we are spoilt for choice."

Ms Portas added: "It was a mecca of joy and everything she stood for was what business should be today – she talked about business as a force for good... when you bought from The Body Shop you didn't just buy the white musk... you bought into the value system she stood for and you wanted to be part of her 'gang'. It was just wonderful and it's terribly sad that it's gone down."

BBC journalist Justin Webb added: "It smelt nice in a way that nothing much did in the 70s – it was bright in a way that nothing much else was, and eco-friendly, too."

Ms Portas also hit out at Aurelius's role in the debacle and private equity takeovers in general: "In it comes... they look at the numbers, they look as the profit and the soul goes out of the business – and she was the burning soul. 

"She was selling beauty with this wonderful energy of activism behind it. You didn't just see it as skin deep, you bought into everything that she stood for."

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