Body Shop administrators in race to wrap up sale

Business

Administrators to The Body Shop are aiming to clinch a sale of the stricken cosmetics retailer by the end of the month, even as its former owner veers away from making an offer for it.

Sky News has learnt that FRP Advisory, which was appointed to handle the chain’s insolvency in January, has asked for indicative bids by next Tuesday.

Sources said FRP wanted to seal a sale of The Body Shop’s remaining British business before the end of June.

Aurelius, the investment firm which took control of the retailer only weeks before administrators were called in, is not expected to submit an offer next week.

Marks & Spencer, which was tipped as a possible bidder by The Sunday Times, has also decided against making an offer, while there was growing doubt on Friday that rival Next would bid.

Sources close to FRP insisted, however, that it had been encouraged by the level of interest in The Body Shop from potential bidders.

The auction was launched last month after the administrators concluded that an alternative restructuring of one of Britain’s best-known high street retailers was not viable.

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The Body Shop now trades from roughly 100 stores following a shop closure and redundancy programme undertaken in recent months.

Its collapse into administration underlined the decline of a high street stalwart founded by the late Dame Anita Roddick and her husband Gordon almost half a century ago.

Aurelius bought the chain from Natura & Co, a Brazilian company which was reported to have paid more than $1bn to buy it in 2017.

According to the administrators’ report, Aurelius was confronted immediately after taking ownership of the chain at the beginning of the year with a “short-term cash position [which] was adverse to that that had been forecast, driven by poor results in the 2023 financial year and the unwinding of the company’s working capital”.

“Prior to the sale to the Aurelius Group, stock levels were depleted over the peak Christmas trading period.”

Aurelius is understood to have continued financing the business during the administration process.

The Body Shop’s businesses across most of Europe and parts of Asia had already been offloaded to a family office prior to the insolvency of the UK arm.

At the time of the sale to Aurelius, The Body Shop employed about 10,000 people, and operates roughly 3,000 stores in 70 countries.

Although it has struggled for profitable growth for years, it has retained a prominent presence on British high streets.

The Roddicks were prominent champions of environmental causes, a positioning which helped it gain an edge over rival retailers during the 1980s and ’90s.

Its opposition to the animal testing of cosmetics was also unusual in the decades immediately after it was founded.

Its distinctiveness has, however, been diminished in recent years by the emergence of competitors which also put sustainability at the heart of their businesses.

FRP, M&S and Aurelius all declined to comment.

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