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Saying Farewell to The Body Shop: Emotional Scents and Sensibilities

and some inspired writing prompts

I’ve never been as sad to hear of the closing of a shop as I was to hear of the Body Shop closing in ten days time. The private equity firm, Aurelius, took over the firm in November last year, and are cutting their losses after a downturn. I was away in Cork for the weekend and visited the lovely branch in Oliver Plunkett Street and the staff told me that across Ireland and much of Europe all the branches are closing. I visited the Galway branch just in December – William Street won’t be the same. I had heard a rumour a day or two before and dismissed it. How could such a thing be true?

In this blog I’m sharing some insights and memories of The Body Shop and I’ve added some writing prompts inspired by my memories for the writers or writing-curious.

Big Bottles in London Bathrooms

My first memory of The Body Shop was at my mum’s friend’s house in Heathrow. We could hear the sounds of planes from her house, a startling novelty. But in her bathroom was Body Shop bottles, overwhelmingly tall and curious, with the words: Against Animal Testing on them. I always loved animals, and I had no idea at that time that products were tested on them so I was full of questions after that. In my ten year old mind, it was unthinkable that people would be so cruel.

Not long after, the name was on our lips at school. Ethical, making a stand against animal testing, delicious smelling and, unfortunately, overbudget for me, a serial peruser of Boots and Superdrug. I would covet those products and dream of buying them. 

Our local Body Shop was near the top of The Parade in Leamington Spa. Walking in there was like stepping through a portal. You were greeted with a feast for the senses; a rainbow of colours and heady scents; lotions, balms and perfumes you could sample so long as you had another patch of wrist, arm or neck left. You could sniff those tester lip balms; green kiwi and pink morello cherry, try out the hand creams and admire the silken bath pearls to your hearts’ content. As a teenage girl, I could disappear into that shop and not emerge for a long time. The staff seemed to simply accept it; this emporium was a place of welcome and solace. 

White Musk Girl on the School Tour

The next memory was the school tour. An outdoor adventure centre in Wales with orienteering, rock climbing, potholing and abseiling, to name but a few. One of the girls had a crush on Steve, the gorgeous tall, brown haired, blue eyed youth worker with the denim jacket and lovely grin. She wore Body Shop White Musk. It was sweet and intoxicating, and I was full sure that Steve would have to fall in love with her, eleven or not. How could he not when she smelled so good? 

 

“Be courageous. It’s one of the only places left uncrowded”
― Anita Roddick

 

Me Vs. Ants – A Greek Island Adventure

As an adolescent, on the island of Kalymnos I experienced a rude encounter with the local ants. I had saved up and bought myself the Body Shop cocoa butter after sun. It was gooey and delightful, and brownish to help add to the idea of having a tan rather than being pasty white or lobster red. The trouble was, the ants thought it was great too. The top mustn’t have been screwed on tight enough and it oozed at the neck, but the ants covered every part of it. I couldn’t use it after, as I was sure there were ants lurking around inside. It taught me that useful lesson for the youth, that there is good sense to wiping up spills and sweeping up crumbs.

 

The Body Shop, Oliver Plunkett St Cork, ten days before closure in February, 2024

Lessons in Abundance Consciousness

As a mother of three children, I used to love the Coconut Body Butter, but the idea of buying it for myself more than once in a blue moon was over the top and self indulgent. I would have some and use a little on my hands, or a bit here and there. That smell. So delicious. Until one day, I realised that thinking this way was blocking my own abundance, and a pity. I vowed to myself to always have some Coconut Body Butter in the house and never to scrimp and scrape with it again. It became my signature fragrance, since, after my third son I mysteriously went off all perfumes. Coconut Body Butter was my perfume. And that has been the case ever since. It has moisturised my skin and given me and my clothes that smell that I love so much for years now. 

Their Story

The Body Shop was the vision of Anita Roddick (1942-2007), who opened the first branch in Brighton, England, in 1976. Anita believed something revolutionary – that business could be a force for good. She was a vocal advocate for human rights and social issues, using her company’s global presence to campaign for change. Roddick’s approach to business has inspired countless entrepreneurs and companies to adopt more ethical and sustainable practices.

Anita worked with Greenpeace on the Save the Whale campaign to fight the cruel practise of whaling, promoting jojoba oil as a substitute for sperm whale oil, which was commonly used in cosmetics then. She did a lot, and she brought us the delight of The Body Shop. 

“If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you’ve never been to bed with a mosquito.”
― Anita Roddick

 

Disenfranchised Grief

Disenfranchised grief is where we grieve something or someone that society doesn’t acknowledge or validate. For me and others I’m sure, The Body Shop is intertwined with personal milestones or memories – adolescence, self-discovery, and moments of joy or comfort. The grief over its loss links to a sense of nostalgia and a longing for a past self or time period that felt simpler or more meaningful. I am sure many would tell me that it’s first world problems and, in Ireland at least, to “cop on.”

I went into the Oliver Plunkett Street Branch in Cork City this morning and bought all the Coconut Body Butter I could, and wept on my way out of the shop. Sad for all those employees who’ve suddenly lost their jobs. And a world without The Body Shop just isn’t the same.

NB) After writing this blog I discovered The Body Shop is remaining open in the UK. I will need to drive over and take the ferry! Read more about branches closing in Ireland here

Enjoyed reading this? Have a look at the other blog posts here

 

Writing Prompts

Set a timer for however long works for you and let your pen or your typing hands go, go, go without stopping until the time is done. Don’t stop and re-read/edit as you go. You could write memoir (about yourself and your life) or choose one of these prompts and apply it to a character you are currently working with, to get to know them better. 

1) Write about a place that fascinated you as a child. It could be something that now seems mundane… like a mom’s friends’ bathroom!
2) Explore something that everyone was talking about when you were in primary school – like a fashion or trend.
3) Recall a shop that intrigued you, exploring the senses it evoked.
4) Write about a childhood crush – or someone else’s – and the excitement of it.
5) Describe something precious getting spoiled.
6) Have fun recalling a luxurious indulgence.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, memories, or if a writing prompt was helpful; comment on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

 

 

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A post shared by Eleyna Meir (@eleynawrites)

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