Forty-three-year-old beauty brand The Body Shop is undergoing an activism-driven revamp.
After being acquired by Brazilian cosmetics company Natura & Co. from L’Oréal for a reported $1.1 billion in June 2017, The Body Shop is refocusing product, stores and activations around purpose-led initiatives.
The first piece revolves around the expansion of its best-selling Shea Butter body collection, which lands in U.S. stores this week. The new products include hair-care items (versus solely body care), as well as revamped ingredient versions of its body lotion and body butters, and supports a community trade partnership with The Tungteiya Women’s Association in Northern Ghana.
In the U.S. and worldwide, the Shea Butter collection makes up 8 percent of The Body Shop’s body care business (body care is the brand’s largest category, representing 37 percent of sales). Its expansion to hair care was strategic, as the brand saw double-digit growth in the category in 2018, according to Andrea Blieden, The Body Shop U.S. general manager.
Worldwide, The Body Shop’s comeback is slowly taking shape since the Natura & Co acquisition: The brand saw net revenue increase over 11 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018 and nearly 18 percent for the year. Blieden said that The Body Shop’s turnaround is being facilitated by the lack of heavy promotions that were required by L’Oréal to hit companywide targets as well as the new emphasis in the brand ethos and storytelling.
“Our founder Anita Roddick knew that ingredient sourcing and community outreach worked hand in hand. These products go back to why Anita started this brand,” said Blieden. Through its existing efforts, the beauty brand has supported 640 women who source the Shea Butter for its products, which in turn has benefited 49,0000 residents in 11 villages in Africa.
To spur engagement around the new Shea Butter launch in The Body Shop’s 115 U.S. stores, as well as in the 1,100 Ulta doors carrying the collection, The Body Shop has focused on in-store signage and videos, which showcase the female Shea Butter workers in action. (The line is also being sold on TheBodyShop.com, Ulta.com and Amazon.com). A similar video went live on Instagram and garnered 90,000 views in three days. The Body Shop has 1.7 million followers on the platform.
“We haven’t told this story and put these women in Ghana front and center in our marketing or social,” said Blieden. “We want our customer to know how these products are made and by whom, and to learn how committed we are to our product and also to our partners.” Additionally, The Body Shop is promoting the hashtag #CareWithShea on its platforms and has seen over 2,800 tagged posts.
This ties to The Body Shop’s updated store strategy. Though its website makes up over 30 percent of sales in the U.S., The Body Shop will be begin hosting in-store events around causes in order to promote the brand’s activism more clearly. For International Women’s Day on March 8, the company will host three panel discussions in its New York, Santa Monica and Chicago locations to discuss gender issues and feminism. The panels won’t feature traditional influencers, but they will instead include poet Kelly Tsai, writer Wagatwe Wanjuki and Dr. Venus Evans-Winters, an associate professor at Illinois State University. The events are open to the public, and The Body Shop will be promoting them by email to its 1.3 million customers on its loyalty list.
“We feel it is important for us to educate our communities around us and remind our customer that The Body Shop is rooted in purpose,” said Blieden. “From now on, you, a customer, might be able to sign a petition in our stores or listen to a speaker or donate. We want to activate our stores as ‘activist hubs.’”
This ties to a larger shift in consumer values, especially with younger shoppers. According to December 2018 research from Accenture, more than 6 in 10 Gen-Z and millennial consumers consider a company’s ethical values and authenticity before buying their products. Unilever and L’Occitane are two other larger conglomerates that have made strides around sustainability in an effort to better align with customer values, and BeautyCounter trained its independent beauty consultants to lobby at Capital Hill in spring 2018.
For its part, The Body Shop’s event strategy revolved around hand treatments or facials tied to promotions in the past. With the updated store marketing and events, Blieden’s intention is to make the purpose-led connection clearer for consumers. Additionally, The Body Shop stores will be revamped across the U.S. later this year to further tie back to Roddick’s initial mission for the brand.
“There will be DIY stations featuring the new Shea Butter collection, of course, at the panels and in stores, but this is a different moment for us to show our belief and commitment to female empowerment. It is louder than ever before, and it is not just about product alone,” she said.