From Brighton with Love: The Body Shop's rise and fall from one seaside store

  • WATCH: ITV Meridian's Kit Bradshaw looks back at the history of the troubled cosmetics company

A small shop on a bustling Brighton backstreet is where it all began on 27 March 1976.

Founder Dame Anita Roddick’s unique recipe of natural cosmetics with a social conscience would prove an instant hit with customers, setting in motion the growth of a global beauty brand.

The Body Shop would expand to encompass more than 3,000 stores in 70 countries.

At its core was a simple idea: skincare products made from natural ingredients, sold with limited packaging and without testing on animals.

“I have great pleasure in breaking rules. Breaking the rules of the industry that I'm involved in,” Dame Anita told ITV News in 1984.

The pioneering businesswoman was born in Littlehampton in 1942 and would go on to establish the Body Shop’s head office in the Sussex seaside town.

Body Shop founder Dame Anita Roddick, pictured at the company's 25th anniversary celebrations in 2001. Credit: PA Archive / PA Images

The company was floated on the London Stock Exchange in the 1980s, and would remain publicly listed until it was bought by L'Oréal in 2006.

The deal attracted controversy because of the French company’s previous stance on a range of ethical issues, including animal testing.

Dame Anita died in 2007, aged 64, after suffering a brain haemorrhage.

Family friend and co-founder of the Big Issue magazine, Lord Bird, said the Body Shop never recovered from the change of leadership.

“Sometimes, when you have a really, really powerful person who runs a business and is always innovating, always bringing about change, and then they hit health problems – and then die prematurely – the business finds it very difficult because it was a personality-driven business,” he added.

The Body Shop’s head office is in Littlehampton, West Sussex, where founder Dame Anita Roddick was born. Credit: PA Archive / PA Images

The original branch on Kensington Gardens in the North Laine area of Brighton closed many years ago, but one local design retail consultant says the company has made a lasting impact on the area.

Rich Ford, creative director at Sherlock Studio, told ITV News Meridian: "Brighton and Hove is a hotbed for independent, purpose-led start-ups.

"I think Anita Roddick has left a legacy in the city, where we're seeing all sorts of brands who are trying to do better for the environment and for their suppliers and for the people they source from."

The Body Shop’s UK division was put into administration last week, just months after the latest owners – global private equity group Aurelius – took control of the company.

The administrators have announced plans to close half of the company’s 198 shops in the UK and reduce the number of staff employed at head office by 40 per cent.

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