Since the summer, London has been the focus of several climate protests. Whilst the actions of Extinction Rebellion may have spurred discussions around climate change (as well as direct action by some disgruntled commuters), there is no doubt that environmental concerns are starting to influence shopper behaviour.
The climate emergency may be accelerating but so too are the attempts of The Body Shop to regain its once prized crown as the ethical retailer of choice. With its new concept store, The Body Shop is the latest in a growing number of retailers hoping to (literally) unpack the debate instore. Whilst its latest store may be new, the topic certainly isn’t for the brand that was, arguably, the original pioneer.
Intent on returning to its roots – no longer happy to sit on the fence…
At first glance, you could be forgiven for mistaking the new store from The Body Shop on London’s busy Oxford Street as the headquarters of Extinction Rebellion. Megaphones and protest messages set the tone, with the ‘call to action’ loudly and proudly shouted within the store windows.
With environmental and ethical concerns all the rage; more of us are increasingly turning to brands that promise honesty, transparency and direct action. Even before you enter this new concept store, it’s clear this is a company that’s intent on returning to its roots – no longer happy to sit on the fence when it comes to ethical and environmental issues.
It’s important to view this concept store within the context of the brand’s history. Founder Anita Roddick was very much a new age hero all those decades ago, with trailblazing environmental campaigns and all out war against animal testing. Fast-forward to 2006 and a sell-out (literally and some would say metaphorically) to L’Oréal left many questioning if the company had lost its way and abandoned the values that made shoppers so impassioned about the brand and its much-loved products.
The Body Shop practically invented the ethical retail movement.
This new store represents a key step in the brand’s attempt to put itself back at the heart of the environmental and ethical agenda. More accurately, getting back to what it’s known for and does best – once again seeking to own this space in both the industry and consumers’ minds. With brands often facing claims of greenwashing, making such a huge stand naturally invites the brand to be held up to intense scrutiny, and rightly so. If this were any other brand, it could be considered as ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ but The Body Shop practically invented the ethical retail movement.
Two key differences mark this store out from previous formats; customer interaction has been prioritised and there’s a huge emphasis on brand messaging. This is a store that is selling ideology along with its products – providing a genuine reason to buy once again. Literally every ethical box is ticked. From Fairtrade and vegan products, to plastic reduction and recycling, as well as support for women’s rights. Their commitment to these causes is highlighted around the store with POS and digital screens showcasing stories from their work in the field.
Perhaps this particular location…is not the right testing ground.
The instore refill station is another big talking point. Here, customers can bring back their containers to use again – a key trend among a growing number of retailers. Though interesting, it’s somewhat disappointing this is currently only available for shower gel and surely a huge opportunity for the brand to take the lead with refills on the high street. Perhaps this particular location (with hurried shoppers and tourists) is not the right testing ground.
In the centre of the store is a demo area where shoppers can try and test the products themselves. The focus here is more about ingredients and educating shoppers on why they work so well. Among the dominant campaign material, it’s good to see they have not forgotten to champion the actual products they sell. This centrepiece creates wow factor and a reason for shoppers to interact with the staff and samples. A gifting area, which has long been associated with the brand, is front and centre in time for the lead up to Christmas, allowing shoppers to create bespoke packages.
With Lush having stolen their thunder for ethical beauty in recent years, this is The Body Shops’ attempt to reclaim its crown, and market share. For customers of a certain age there is a strong sense of nostalgia relating to this store: the familiar logo and green branding dominant to ensure customers remember them for the right reasons. But if they can roll this out nationwide, Millennials and Gen Z might also engage with this brand for the first time in its long history, spurred on in the knowledge that their money is going to fight for the causes that ever-growing numbers of them are actively supporting and are willing to act on.
See more images from The Body Shop, Oxford Street London here.