R is for Anita Roddick: Pioneering The Way

Anita was a pioneer in many ways. She acted as a role model for people who wanted to build ethical and successful businesses.

At the same time, she was also prepared to introduce a different vocabulary into business. Whilst it was important that The Body Shop was profitable, she also talked about different definitions of success.

Anita may have come across as an idealist, but she was remarkably savvy. She learned the ‘Can Do’ attitude from her Italian parents. They ran an American-style Diner café in Littlehampton, Sussex, during the 1950s.

Opening the café at 5.00 am to cater for the fishermen’s breakfast, they kept serving throughout the day until the last customer was satisfied. Anita served in the café from an early age and felt what it was like to handle money.

Gilly Mckay and Alison Cork take up the story in their book The Body Shop. Anita’s apprenticeship proved invaluable when starting the first shop in Brighton in 1976. Here are some extracts from their book.

“When I opened the doors,” she says, “I was not thinking about changing the world. I simply had to take £1000 in the first week to feed the baby and pay the bills.”

Anita had learned, however, to provide good service that attracted and retained customers. Believing that retail is theatre, she tried to create a good atmosphere in the shop.

“With £4000 borrowed from the bank I could only afford to spend £700 on products. But the 20 products we formulated looked pretty pathetic all standing on one shelf. So to make the shop look busy and full I produced them in five sizes of bottles.

“I couldn’t afford fancy packaging so I bought the cheapest bottles available and the labels were handwritten.

“We painted the ceiling of our tiny shop green to cover the damp patches and put garden fencing on the walls to stop rain splashing the products. 

“The first day we opened was a Saturday and we took £100. The other retailers in the street were laying odds of 10-1 against our surviving six months, but we were on our way.”

Anita was extremely down-to-earth. She used her gifts to run a successful business and also support other pioneers. This funding is continued by The Roddick Foundation.


Finally, here is Anita talking about the importance of fun and story telling when running The Body Shop.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>