In 2009, we took a strategic decision with our franchise partner in India to become more affordable and accessible. We accepted that we would make some sacrifice together – we pride ourselves on listening to our customers and wanted to act on that. Indeed we listened to what our customers in India were saying and permanently reduced the prices on 200 products last year. In April this year, we have permanently lowered the prices on an additional 600 products by up to 35%.
What are the key concepts here?
There are two key words – more affordable and more accessible. In Tier ll and Tier lll cities we are trying to tick both these boxes
Is this plan unique to India?
Yes it is. We have tried out minor price reductions in different markets, with different mechanics for different reasons, but this particular plan is for India. Now the prices of products here will be on par or lower than most countries.
Are you satisfied with the way the brand is growing in India?
It just amazes me how well the Indian consumer has taken to The Body Shop products. Our Indian customers are well educated, widely traveled and have exceptionally discerning tastes for high quality, affordable goods. I do not think any other cosmetics and toiletries brand has opened so many free-standing stores in such a short period of time.
The Body Shop India has 35 stores in 16 cities in India. In the next 12 months, we will have 65 stores in 30 cities. This includes both Tier ll and Tier lll cities.
How are people responding to the brand value concepts?
To contribute to the communities we have stores in, and to educate and mobilize our customers to get involved in important social and environmental issues of our time, as well as to fund raise for local non-government organizations whom we partner with, The Body Shop India has run a number of advocacy campaigns here, including our global campaigns Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People (launching later in the year), Stop Violence in the Home and Say Yes Yes Yes to Safe Sex. We have also incorporated several local Values activities, including most recently a No Carrier Bag Day to mark Earth Hour, staff volunteering with organizations such as Muskaan, as well as working with GOONJ on Earth Day to collect under-used educational materials from city schools and distributing them to poorer schools in slums.
Currently, 25,000 people around the world are directly benefiting from our Community Trade programme, a pioneering and unique fair trade sourcing system for naturally inspired ingredients and accessories. This includes communities in India, where our Community Trade suppliers, such as Teddy Exports, are located.
What do you see as the fastest growing categories here in the coming year?
Skin care is a highly popular category for us, with huge potential to grow significantly in the next two years, particularly since we are launching a number of exciting new brands in this category, including organically certified Nutriganics™ and products for fairer skin in our Moisture White™ Shiso range. We are also seeing our Men’s category, of which the Maca Root range is part of, rapidly expanding its customer base, with sales at double the percentage compared to the rest of Asia.
Do you plan to continue in the franchise model in India?
Over the years, we have built a tried and tested business model with 40 franchise partners around the world. The key to the success is ensuring that we work with very dynamic and knowledgeable partners, who understand the brand and our ethics, and are passionate about developing the business in their country.
India is a perfect example. The Body Shop International is very pleased have been working with our franchise partner Planet Retail since 2006, whom we have developed a fantastic and mutually beneficial relationship.
How does The Body Shop do in other countries in Asia?
Asia is the fastest growing market in the business, and contributes a significant proportion to the overall global retail turnover. I look over 16 countries in the APAC region, including Japan, Australia and Korea, who are among our top selling markets around the world. Vietnam is our newest addition, with its first store opening late last year. I am delighted to add that India is the fastest growing business in Asia.
Which are the fastest growing categories in India?
Last year it was Bath and Body, followed closely by SkinCare, then Make-Up and Fragrance. This year skin care is moving forward with Nutiganics™, our first organically certified skin care range for ageing skin. The Vitamin E range is the Number One seller across Asia, but here the brightening ranges are doing very well. In make-up, we have factored in colours that are suitable for India consumers, especially in the Lip Glide series.
What reasons do you attribute the brand success in India?
I can name two reasons. It is a mixture of pent-up demand and having made the right decision at the right time to reduce our prices. People in India are familiar with the iconic status and heritage of the UK brand and are avid supporters of the original, natural and ethical brand’s unwavering stance on animal testing, human rights, community trade, environmental protection, sustainability and self-esteem. But at the end of the day, our customers also know we have phenomenal products bursting with naturally inspired ingredients that work for all different skin types. They trust the brand. Then there are the tactile factors too, such as our excellent in-store service standards. Customers who have experienced shopping with enjoy it very much, and keep going back for more. We pride ourselves on training our passionate staff, so that not only do they know the products exceptionally well, they are also able to tailor their service to effectively meet our customers’ needs.