The Body Shop first entered the UAE in a franchise partnership in 1983 and entered the Kuwait market a few years later, in 1987. The business has expanded since then in a number of franchise partnerships across the Middle East, in all the different markets.
The franchisees operate through all the brand's products, its marketing campaigns, and most importantly, complies with the company's values, according to Jenny Whitehorn, Marketing Director EMEA. The most recent markets to open were Egypt and Morocco, and with the recent lifting of sanctions, Iran could feature in the brand's future as well.
"Iran is a fascinating country and is on many companies' and retailers' horizons, which is very exciting. However, for any new market, finding the right partner and going through the registration process, and the business of running a cosmetics brand with the huge value set that comes with it can take time. So it definitely will not be something that is immediately round the corner," she said.
The Body Shop operates on different levels of local partnerships, she said. When the brand runs a campaign, the team will try to find a global partner who is present in every location, though that is not always possible. The values team will approach the next closest partner that the global partner recommends, so there is always someone on the ground for the duration of a campaign. Whitehorn said previous partnerships have included a women's refuge, local police forces, and there are always agencies or NGOs that the company can partner with.
Another example of a partnership is the brand's community fair trade agreement.
"We have not had a fair trade agreement here, in the GCC. But if we found an ingredient or something of interest here, then we'd love to have that from this region. We have partnerships in India and Nepal, and maybe in the future we could have an agreement here regarding packaging or technology, as opposed to a plant ingredient," she said. She said a consideration after finding a partner, opening up a market and completing the registration process, is finding the right locations in the right malls, adding that real estate in this region has really fierce competition. But the marketing side is a really interesting historical part of the company, because it will adapt some, not all, of its images and brand messaging to try to run as much of a global business in the Middle East as everywhere else. "If there is an interest in diverse images or models, or something that really plays to the culture of this region, we adapt to that. In fact, some products have their origins here, such as kajals, our black carbon eyeliner, and some of our fragrances are inspired by the region," added Whitehorn.
She added that lifestyle imagery is easier to have approved in some countries than in others, adding that Saudi is probably still the toughest market, but some instances the imagery can be pushed a little bit. Campaign heritage One of the Body Shop's earliest and most disruptive campaigns, according to Whitehorn, was against domestic violence, which was very difficult to get approved and launched in the region.
"At the time, we felt it was the right thing to do as it is a global issue. We brought it to the partners here and they were very reluctant at the beginning, until some members of the team said 'This [domestic violence] happens here as well'. As fortune would have it, and also because of the way the Body Shop is usually just ahead of the curve or on the crest, some quite famous people started coming forward saying they had been in domestically violent relationships, and the campaign suddenly became talked about. It just took a little bit longer to make sure we had the phraseology and the imagery right," she said.
Another example of such a campaign was about trafficking young people, the company's biggest campaign launch ever.
"We had to remove certain words and the campaign became about stopping the 'exploitation' of people, and we worked with our partners to find a way that they felt comfortable, but also that we were happy that the campaign wasn't being compromised. We had amazing TV shows in Kuwait, we had billboards, and the campaign led to spokespeople fully endorsing it," Whitehorn said.
She added that the brand has always been about more than just selling products and franchisees are contractually bound to be involved in The Body Shop's values and campaigns. The company just needs to make sure the campaigns are right for the market place, right for the partners, and right for the customers so that they will respond positively.
"Consumers are more careful about where their money goes. If one product is more expensive, they want to know why. Some consumers want to know if a product is vegan or vegetarian. We are transparent about our brand. If we make a mistake, we're not afraid to say we got it wrong," she said.
Talent retention Whitehead added that even from the earliest days, the people that company founder, Anita Roddick, met were entrepreneurs drove innovation. The qualities and characteristics required of the people hired include being true to the values that they uphold, and they have to be service- and customer-oriented.
The Body Shop has a commitment in terms of enriching its people, which includes paying a fair wage, because laws change and the company wants to keep abreast of them. Furthermore the company has a development programme for its staff around the world in terms of training, leveraging online training tools technological changes. It is also generous with the products given to staff when the join the company, added Whitehorn.
"We want them to use the products and to be honest-it's important that they are themselves when they're on the shop floor. They need to be able to say that a product does or doesn't suit a customer, and they should not be afraid of selling the right product to the right age group. Whether a customer is 20-plus or 40-plus, they have to have that honest conversation with consumers about what the best product is for them," she said.
She added that while a staff member on the shop floor may be required simply to apply make-up, they may also be required to discuss quite complex topics, such as the company's values and campaigns, or any new technology it is using.
The Body Shop has implemented a personal development scheme called Learning Is of Value to Everyone (LOVE), where each member of the company is given GBP 100 to put towards personal development, whether that means learning a new skill or doing something to improve their well-being, said Whitehorn.
Whitehorn said the team tries to encourage its staff in each of the markets, even the CEO, to be in stores and on the shop floor wherever possible. Over Christmas the executive group visits stores where they compete to see who can get the longest till receipt, or who can sell the most, which she said is not always easy for them, because they find themselves on the till, or on the shop floor and serving customers, completely out of their element.
She added that the company constantly trains and develops its staff because the focus is on the retention of talent in all of its offices around the world staff turnover rates are low.
"That focus on staff retention and training is a really important part of our DNA as a company. It's not easy, because every beauty retailer is after the right talent, because more of the service proposition in retail is about providing a personalised service," she said.
She added that the company has experienced many periods of change, including the passing of the founder in 2007, but each of these periods has given the business a chance to adapt, and many businesses do not adapt in times of change.
"The pace at which the world is changing is getting faster and we need to have that agility to adapt and keep up. To keep the brand relevant, particularly with the younger generation of consumers who are constantly on their phones, means adapting to digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. That is the only way we are going to reach them accordingly," she said.
Scent from nature
The Body Shop has launched a collection of five eau de parfum, inspired by some of the planet's most precious natural scents. The essence of each botanical is recreated without harm, allowing the plant to live on.
Headspace technology involves cocooning the plant, flower or wood in a glass sphere, and creating a vacuum where the fragrance compound emitted by the plant can be sampled. The essence is then recreated and incorporated into a bottled fragrance, leaving nature untouched, while recreating the scents of some of the rarest plant species that blended with natural essences and extracts.
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