Body Shop: Anita Lucia Roddick

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  • Topic: Anita Roddick, The Body Shop, L'Oréal
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  • Published : May 23, 2013
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Body Shop

Anita Lucia Roddick, née Perilla, was born in Littlehampton, England in 1942, one of four children of Italian immigrants. Her parents settled in Littlehampton to run the Clifton Cafe. Her father died when she was ten and the children then helped to run the cafe. From school she went to Bath College of Education where she took a Teacher Training course. She started teaching, but wanted to live abroad so she got a job with the United Nations in Geneva. She had never had a holiday as a child and so, with the tax-free money she earned in Geneva, she decided to spend a year travelling around the world. She visited Polynesia, New Caledonia, Australia and Africa where her interest in the use of natural ingredients for cosmetic purposes was aroused. In Tahiti she saw local women plastering themselves with cocoa butter. Half the bean was used for chocolate and the other half was used as a cosmetic. In Morocco she saw women washing their hair in mud. -------------------------------------------------

Returning to England, she met Gordon Roddick, a graduate of the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester. He had farmed overseas and in the UK before settling in Littlehampton. They married in 1970. Originally they planned to travel overland to Australia and buy a pineapple plantation, but the arrival of first one and then two children made them change their plans. Instead they bought and ran a restaurant and later a small hotel in Littlehampton. -------------------------------------------------

In 1976 Anita opened the first Body Shop in a back street in Brighton in 1976. The roof leaked and the ugly unpainted walls were covered with green garden lattice primarily because it was cheap. The shop sold only about a dozen inexpensive ‘natural’ cosmetics, all herbal creams and shampoos, all in simple packaging. Pot plants were placed between the products to fill the space. Anita thought these products would only appeal to a small number of customers that shared her values. Her husband, Gordon, even went off to ride a horse across the Americas about a month after it opened. -------------------------------------------------

‘I know everyone wants to think that it is like an act of God – that you sit down and have a brilliant idea. Well, when you start your own business it does not work like that. I remember walking through Littlehampton with the kids, one in a pushchair and one walking beside me. We went into the sweet shop, then into the greengrocer and then to Boots. In both the sweet shop and the greengrocers I had choice. I could buy as much, or as little, as I wanted. I could buy half a pound of gob-stoppers or a kilo of apples, the quantities were up to me. In Boots I suddenly thought ‘What a shame that I can’t buy as little as I like here too. Why am I stuck with only big sizes to choose from? If I’m trying something out and don’t like it, I am too intimidated to return it, so I’m stuck with it.’ That one thought, that single reaction, was me voicing a need, a disappointment with things as they were. But if that’s a need I have, lots of other women must have the same need, I thought. Why can’t we buy smaller sizes – like in the greengrocers?’ -------------------------------------------------

However, Anita was wrong. It proved to be a huge success. nevertheless whilst this idea was novel at the time it was easily copiable. The firm’s initial roll-out owes much to the clear focus Anita and Gordon Roddick had on where their competitive advantage lay. They realised that the idea they had could be easily copied and success would only come from developing the brand and a rapid expansion. Unfortunately they had...
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