David Boynton of The Body Shop: “They say retail is dead. But we are social creatures’ | Retail business

DPassionate Boynton says he’s not one to slather on a face mask, but The Body Shop’s GM, who turned out well, could use all the relaxation techniques he’s got. he may find with a difficult year ahead.

On the weekend of what would have been Anita Roddick’s 80th birthday this Sunday, the chain she founded in Brighton in 1976 with a £4,000 loan would be on the market for the second time in five years, with a £1billion price tag, after a pandemic boom reversed into a sales slump.

Boynton, whose accent vacillates between the north of England and New York after years living across the Atlantic, has already been forced to make tough decisions. It permanently closed 23 net UK stores during the pandemic as business went online, while 90% of its 3,000 outlets worldwide were forced to close temporarily due to government shutdowns.

Parent group Natura, the Brazilian ethical beauty retailer that bought the channel for around £880million in 2017is believed to want to cut debt after spending around £1.6billion to buy Avon’s non-North American business in 2019 and backing away from a 24% drop in The Body Shop’s sales in the first six month of this year after a difficult end to 2021.

While most The Body Shop stores have come back to life, those run by franchisees are only slowly recovering from the closures. Meanwhile, the brand’s network of door-to-door sellers and online fans, built as Covid kept everyone at home, shrank, and the group took a hit when the invasion of Ukraine l forced him to withdraw from Russia, where he owned 26 stores. The shift to working from home and lackluster tourist traffic has also hampered city center outlets, with sales in London for the first half of the year still well below pre-pandemic levels.


Age 59

Family Married with four children, two girls and two boys.

Education: State Grammar in the Manchester Region; University of Leeds.

Pay Not disclosed.

Last holidays Naples in Southwest Florida: “A beautiful place, sadly recently destroyed by Hurricane Ian.”

Best advice ever given “Surround yourself with brilliant people who don’t care.”

Biggest Career Mistake “I should have been quicker to move people with high potential into roles where they could excel.”

Words or phrases he abuses
Using song lyrics to describe everyday work situations –
for example: “As Ian Dury might
say – there are reasons to be joyful.

how he relaxes Gardening, opera and golf with his wife.

Boynton says that in many ways this year has proven more complicated to navigate than 2020 or 2021, when government aid was in place.

Covid lockdowns in China and ongoing issues with international freight services mean products can still be delivered six weeks late. Inflation is also taking its toll: The Body Shop has pledged to pay the real living wage in the UK, for example, which will mean a 10% pay rise next year for its workers, which will weigh more on profits.

Boynton took on the task of reviving the business after the blow to its reputation that resulted from a ill-advised takeover by cosmetics giant L’Oreal in 2006. The deal, endorsed by Roddick the year before his death, shocked the Body Shop’s ethically-conscious customers and staff and led to a slump in sales and profits .

Boynton said he took the job as a ‘true passion project’ after watching company events with ‘interest and some sadness’ while completing a 10-year stint in the beauty business L’Occitane, followed by a short stint at blouse designer Charles Tyrwhitt.

A longtime retailer who began his career as a graduate trainee at the checkout counters of a branch of the now defunct Safeway supermarket chain in Edmonton, north London, Boynton says he wanted the job because of the property of Natura.

He won’t comment on speculation about a potential sale, but says The Body Shop has a good relationship with Natura. “They are the perfect people to give us the space to be who we want to be and to honor all that Anita and [her husband] Gordon wanted,” he said.

Natura said it does not “conduct any specific study” on the sale of The Body Shop but that it “constantly evaluates all strategic alternatives for value creation”.

Any sale would come after four years of hard work revamping many of The Body Shop’s products, improving ingredients and switching to packaging made from more easily recyclable materials. Much of the range now consists of 100% recycled plastic jars and bottles, some of which come from a community project in India. Old favorites such as the Vitamin C skincare line have been given a boost, while the newer and hugely popular Drops of Youth has dropped the focus on age and is renamed Edelweiss, after its ingredient. key.

The revitalization came after Boynton spent time talking to clients and former Roddick colleagues to try to build a set of principles for the company to follow, based on, “What would Anita do?”

One thing that hasn’t changed is that the company still doesn’t test finished products or ingredients on animals, nor do suppliers or third parties. And in a move that would no doubt impress Roddick, Boynton has reintroduced refill stations, where customers can return bottles of shower gel, hand soap and shampoo – an idea Body Shop first tried decades ago, but discontinued in the late 1990s.

They were trialled on Oxford Street in London in 2019, and now 172 of 219 UK stores offer the service, and it will be in 800 globally by the end of this year. Boynton says the refills are part of efforts to get people back on the high streets: “People have been telling me for over 10 years that retail is dead. But our industry is very experiential and the stores fulfill this mission. We are social creatures and enjoy being around other people. We’ve been isolated during lockdown and it’s not good for people’s mental health. »

It plans to open around 30 more stores in the UK in the longer term as rents have fallen by up to 30% in some locations, making new branches more viable.

Boynton says knowledgeable staff will continue to be important, as will the opportunity to try out products, potentially learn about what’s happening in the world and feel part of a community. “It’s up to you to deliver experiences or you’ll be dinosaurs,” he says of retailers.

However, with households hoping to cut costs, won’t The Body Shop treats be removed from shopping lists? He disagrees: “We are not accessible to everyone, but we offer the performance of brands that sell for two to three times more. Everyone is looking for ways to save in the months and years to come, and we could be in a good position to take advantage of them.

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