In pictures: Looking back at The Body Shop in Northampton over the years as store shuts for good

A sad day for the town

The Body Shop in Northampton closed its doors for the last time this week after the chain entered troubled water and made the decision to close 75 shops.

The beauty chain has a long history in Northampton, starting out in Peacock Way in 1981 before moving into the Grosvenor Centre.

For some, The Body Shop was more than just a retailer… below is Hannah’s story. Her parents opened the Northampton branch back in the 80s.

The Body Shop has been in the news a lot recently.

The company’s struggles and shop closures have a lot of people reminiscing about what it meant to them as teenagers. Shopping for Dewberry and White Musk, bath beads, and chamomile shampoo was a rite of passage.

But for me and my family, it’s been far more personal.

The story for us starts in 1977 - when I was just six. My aunt introduced us to The Body Shop as she’d been working with Anita Roddick and said how amazing the products were. My mother began her side hustle: selling at parties, long before The Body Shop At Home concept; then every Thursday on Leicester market. Back then Gordon Roddick would simply box up the bottles and post them to her.

And what odd products they were; plain bottles with handwritten labels filled with contents that made my young friends at the time pull a face of disgust: nettle; mud; and carrots.

June 5, 1981: 18 Peacock Way, Northampton

Using Gordon Roddick’s scribbled sketch of the shop layout on the back of a cigarette packet my parents opened the 23rd shop in the world; a franchise. On the first day of trading the shop took £262.87, their first paying-in book is in the family archives. That’s equivalent to £1,262.79 today. Anita, who was there on the opening day, said they’d “do alright”.

Items on the opening stock invoice from The Body Shop warehouse in Littlehampton included car stickers, Tampax holders, an ear-piercing gun, umbrellas, and joss sticks.

The little green shop in Northampton was a huge success.

18 Peacock Way, Northampton

My father left his job as an accountant to focus on the business full time and, as neither were ones to rest on their laurels, my parents converted the upstairs to a beauty salon.

My parents went on to open three further shops: two in Leicester and one in Milton Keynes; with headquarters in Market Harborough that included ‘The Gift Factory’ that produced thousands of Body Shop gift baskets for many of the franchised shops.

My uncle came to work for the business as a Commercial Director.

You see, it really is a personal story.

Our story ends in 1999 when my parents sold their franchises back to The Body Shop.

But recent news has meant us pouring over old files and photos and remembering events and employees. I spent many school holidays working in the shops or the factory. Filling bags with bath salts was my least favourite job as you’d be blowing them out of your nose for days after (despite wearing a face mask). I loved the shrink-wrapping machine.

My parents employed over 100 people at the peak of their success. It seems unimaginable in the current retail landscape that people would queue to get into a shop just to buy. The only time it happens now is to bag a bargain on New Year’s Day.

But my memories also take me back to the ‘70s. Meeting Sam Roddick for the first time, the youngest of Anita and Gordon’s daughters. The same age as me, but quite the opposite in temperament. I remember catching fleeting glimpses of her in the Littlehampton warehouse as she ran around like a feral animal. We went on to become friends. I holidayed at her house. She holidayed at mine. I believe we spent a happy day at Billing Aquadrome. She was/is outspoken and headstrong. I’m quiet and don’t like to be the centre of attention. She made me laugh. A lot. I chose to go to the same school as Sam and her older sister, Justine.

I remember the fabulous staff parties my parents threw. A lawn party at Castle Ashby with a jazz band and falconry. A day at Wyboston Lakes messing about on the water. Sadly, I missed the Christmas do at Althorp with Earl and Raine Spencer. There was a time when a young art graduate called Ann Carrington was invited to decorate the Northampton shop. Ann is now a wildly famous artist.

There were staff trips to India, to see where the footsie rollers were made. Not surprisingly, my parents are still friends with former employees.

I miss the bathroom filled with Body Shop products. My friends would love coming to visit as we had all the shower gels lined up. I don’t miss every dinner where my parents talked shop (much like now with our daughter and Coulson Macleod) nor evenings spent filling acetate boxes with bath beads in front of the TV.

The Northampton shop is closing its doors for the final time in March 2024. It will be a sad day. The Body Shop is not just a news story. It has shaped me and my family. And I’ll be forever grateful.

Below are photos of The Body Shop through the years.