Founder of The Body Shop
“If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.”-Anita Roddick
When Anita Roddick opened her first Body Shop, she didn’t expect to get rich. She just hoped to survive. Her plan was disarmingly simple-she would create a line of cosmetics from natural ingredients and rather than rely on vanity to sell her products, she would appeal to her customers’ concern for the environment. Through a combination of low-key marketing, consumer education and social activism, The Body Shop Ltd. rewrote the rulebook for the $16 billion global cosmetics business and made Roddick one of the richest women in England.
Born in 1942, Anita Perella was the third of four children in one of the few Italian immigrant families in Littlehampton, England.
Everything was done on a shoestring budget with no concession to aesthetics. She painted the shop green because it hid everything, even the damp spots on the walls. She offered discounted refills to customers who brought back their empty containers, and used minimal packaging to keep costs as low as possible. Customers were allowed to choose from an array of perfume oils to scent their purchases (which were fragrance-free) because it was cheaper than adding expensive perfumes to every bottle of shampoo or lotion. And she eschewed advertising, relying instead on well-placed interviews promoting her social causes and in-store pamphlets to sell products.
The combination of unique products, good public relations, a highly trained staff and a well-defined sense of values quickly generated a buzz. Word spread, and within a year, Roddick’s business had grown so large that she opened a second store. When Gordon returned in the spring of 1977, The Body Shop had become so popular that the Roddicks began selling franchises. By the fall of 1982, new Body Shop stores were opening at the rate of two per month.
To capitalize on the massive expansion, the Roddicks took The Body Shop public in 1984. After just one day of trading, the stock doubled in value. It would continue to rise throughout the late 1980s, as hundreds of Body Shop franchises sprung up throughout Europe and the United States.
One of the key ingredients in Roddick’s success was her social activism. Her very vocal support for causes such as Greenpeace, Amnesty International, saving the rainforests and banning animal testing not only generated free publicity, but also set the company apart from its competitors and generated a loyal customer base. People felt good about buying Body Shop products because they felt good about Roddick’s efforts. They wanted to be part of the positive action-and that translated into sales. By the end of 1992, there were more than 700 Body Shop stores generating $231 million in sales.
Nevertheless, Anita Roddick’s story remains one of the great entrepreneurial, if not cautious, tales of the late 20th century. She grew a single shop into an international empire and proved that a company can gain loyal customers and succeed by simply providing product information rather than employing high-powered advertising and high-pressure selling.