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The Body Shop (London)

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      12.08.2005 07:28
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      An International Chain of beauty and skin care shops that are very nice, but a bit expensive.

      In the US I've wandered Body Shop stores from Glendale, California to Skokie, Illinois to New York, New York! I've stopped by UK Body Shops in London, York and Oxford. There's one I often visit when I'm in Amsterdam, and I even peeked into one of their Dublin stores many years ago. Most recently I found a Body Shop in Bucharest, Romania of all places. So, you might say that I've been in Body Shop stores all over the world. I therefore thought that you might like to read my impressions of Body Shops, in general.

      Interestingly enough, all Body Shops are NOT alike - but they are similar in many ways. But before I start comparing and contrasting these stores, I think I should mention what Body Shop has to offer.

      Like its name suggests, the Body Shop has items that are primarily to be used for the outside of your body. This means it doesn't have items that are consumed orally, but only items that are applied externally. That some of them will effect your internal health by their scents or osmosis is just an added advantage. Specifically, Body Shops have the following types of products:

      Bath Products - these include bath & shower creams, gels and scrubs. They also have a large amount of bath accessories like puffs, and gloves to help you apply their products while bathing.

      Body Products - this includes a wide range of items for specific areas of the body. For instance, they have a very large range of products just for your feet and every ailment that they might suffer. One of the favorites here are the peppermint and pumice products for getting rid of dead skin on your feet. They also have a wide range of moisturizing creams in practically any scent you can dream of - most of them food inspired so your skin will feel good enough to eat? Oh, dear!

      Fragrance Products - these are, of course, perfumes. What is unique about them is that they are very basic scents - like vanilla or magnolia - that combine very little other scents in order to achieve as pure a fragrance as possible. Not my style, but some would like these.

      Hair Products - obviously, these are shampoos and conditioners and styling items. They also have a small collection of hair accessories made of natural materials. Warning - these are more expensive than what you'll find in a hair accessory specialty shop.

      Make-Up Products - a collection of eye, lip, cheek and skin products to make you beautiful. Personally, I've never been overly impressed by their colour ranges, and find them either too muted or too strong - nothing in between. Also, these are generally more expensive than some other brands I'm already happy with, like the Boots No. 7 or 17 lines.

      Men's Products - yes, guys, there's a whole line of products at Body Shop that are meant just for you! Masculine smelling shower gels, all sorts of shaving, after-shaving and skin care items. To tell you the truth, I've often liked the scents of the men's items more than the regular lines.

      Skin Care Products - these are creams, cleansers, toners and moisturizers for your face. Their Vitamin E line has a particularly delicate fragrance to it, that I fell in love with.

      Sun Products - actually, they only sell self-tanning sun products. Since I don't believe in tinting any parts of my body, I've never tried any of these.

      Odds & Ends - Body Shops also sell all sorts of accessories from manicure equipment to hair items to bath essentials to scented candles to aromatherapy oils to foot treatment paraphernalia.

      In short, they've got your body covered (hence the title of this op. Sorry!). In fact, it seems to me that the only thing you won't find for your body at these shops will be things for your teeth. So, now that you know what you'll find in a Body Shop in general, let's go into the international compare and contrast.

      There are several similarities that seem to encompass all of the Body Shops I've ever encountered. Firstly, their product line is uniform. You'll find that you can get the exact same line from one country to another, just as easily as you can find the identical items you're looking for from branch to branch in the same city. . The advantage to this is that they actually keep their prices to reasonable levels since they don't have to develop many different production lines. We all know that mass production and a less research and development can keep the costs down at the consumer level.

      Next, you'll find that when you walk into any Body Shop store that their products are arranged in a very specific way. Many stores will display their items by type - meaning all of the face creams are together, and then all of the shampoos are together and all of the accessories are together. Not so with Body Shops. Their idea is to give the consumer an aesthetic experience by laying out the stores by colour. They even make an effort to produce colour-coded items for particular markets, such as the men's lines, so that they are grouped not only by colour but also by type of customer. This gives the interiors of their stores a quasi-rainbow look to them.

      I particularly like this idea since they even make colour coordinated accessories to for their products, and they place these around the shop to match the items on display. So, when I bought a bath & shower gel that was tinted pale green, there were pale green puffs to match it hanging just below them. (That didn't stop me from walking over to the white section and buying a white puff instead, however!)

      Unlike walking into a Lush store, your nose won't be assaulted by any overwhelming scents when you enter any Body Shop. You will, however, be greeted by some of the smells of the items as you get closer. This makes visiting these stores a very pleasant experience, indeed, since you won't feel like you're overdosing on their perfumes by just stepping inside their doors. I've always preferred the soft sell to the hard sell, and the fragrance of a Body Shop has never seemed harsh to me, but rather very friendly and inviting (perhaps that's why I seem to visit so many of them!).

      I've also noticed that the sales people seem to be unobtrusive in every Body Shop I've ever visited. Usually this isn't a generalization one can make from country to country, but I've yet to feel like I was being attacked by sales people in any of the Body Shops I've been to. There could easily be an international company policy in this matter, and if so, I've not yet caught any one of them out on it. Bravo for this.

      Finally, you'll notice that a Body Shop anywhere in the world will not ignore its famous green and white logo, and those two colours will be pretty dominant in any Body Shop outlet that you visit. This, of course, is for the obvious reasons of company identification. Just thank goodness that their logo and colours aren't of the design or type that grate on one's nerves.

      Of course, no two stores can be EXACTLY alike, now can they? But you'll see that the differences aren't all that significant. While the general décor of a Body Shop seems to be adhered to on many levels (as described above), I did find that from country to country there are some differences. For instance, the shop in Oxford has lots of dark wood on the walls and most of the display cases are backed with mirrors. I'm assuming that this was done in order to try to make a small shop look a bit bigger. However, the effect wasn't terribly successful, and the lighting could have been better planned so that you don't feel like you're entering a cave.

      I have to admit that most of the Body Shop stores in the UK that I've visited seem terribly dark and cramped. The ones in the US and Holland seem less dark, but are just about as cramped, however.

      On the other hand, the shop in Bucharest is much more spacious and the walls are painted a lighter shade of their logo green. Here there are practically no mirrors except near the accessory cases and the make-up displays. This is a carefully lit shop that uses colours and indirect lighting to its best advantage. A true pleasure, and someone should be praised for taking a step in the right direction with this store.

      Beyond a doubt, these two examples look so different basically because of the vast differences in the property that the stores acquired for their shops. One can hardly insist that the Oxford store on the high street receive the same amount of floor space as the Bucharest shop that was placed in a brand new shopping mall, now can one?

      The other major differences are just as environmental as my previous example. The prices in Bucharest were terribly cheap - for someone buying from the standpoint of holding foreign currency, of course. Still, when I looked in a discount supermarket for bath products that might be the equivalent to what is available at the Body Shop, it seemed that the prices were still fairly reasonable.

      On the other hand, in the UK and the USA, the prices are average, and sometimes (for some products) slightly on the expensive side. Of course, with the recent devaluation of the dollar, the American visitor to the UK will find your prices very high indeed! But that may be temporary. Still, it seemed to me that - relatively speaking - the Body Shop in the UK and the USA doesn't cater to quite as modest an economic group as it does in Romania.

      Lastly, and least importantly, the products in Romania (and any other non-English speaking country, for that matter) have an additional sticker on them with information in their local language. Well, DUH, you say? And well you should! I'm sure that's not going to make or break an international chain, is it.

      I've always liked wandering around a Body Shop, and whenever I see one, I try to step in and take a quick look about, even if I'm not in the market for anything they're selling. It only takes a few moments to purview the premises, you'll not feel accosted by either the staff or the smell of the place, and its fun to see what strange and/or exotic goods they're marketing that season. Since I've yet to buy anything from a Body Shop that I haven't been satisfied with, I'd say the quality is quite good. So these are the plusses.

      On the minuses side - their prices aren't usually all that competitive, even if they excuse themselves for this by promoting "all natural" products, helping the environment, and encouraging higher moral standards of conduct throughout the world (see Technical Stuff below). While they are small shops, they can sometimes be crowded and cramped feeling. Finally, the one thing that bothers me most about Body Shops is that they change their ranges so often that when you find a product you really like, you'll have to quickly go back and buy lots of it, since if you wait a few months, it might already be discontinued. Real shame, that.

      Overall, I'll give Body Shops a solid four stars - not at all bad, but not perfect either - still room for improvement (especially their prices).

      Thanks for reading.

      ~~~~~
      Technical Stuff:

      There's actually a chain of Body Shops right here in Israel, but they're owned by a local company (Dr. Fischer), and do not belong to the same chain you know in the UK.

      The general web page can be found at http://www.thebodyshop.com/ and the UK specific site is at http://www.uk.thebodyshop.com/

      Remember that Body Shops do the following:
      א Against Animal Testing
      א Support Community Trade
      א Defend Human Rights
      א Activate Self Esteem
      א Support our Planet

      You can contact them by snail-mail at:
      The Body Shop UK & ROI Region
      Customer Relations Department
      Building 4, Hawthorn Road, Wick, Littlehampton
      West Sussex, BN17 7LR
      Or via email: UKCustomer.Relations@the-body-shop.com

      Their Global Headquarters are located at:
      The Body Shop International,
      New City Court, 20 St. Thomas Street,
      London, UK, SE1 9RG
      telephone: 0207 208 7600
      ~~~~~

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