LONDON -- The Body Shop International is digging in its heels.
The company is sticking to its business practices and strategies despite a barrage of negative publicity over an alleged breach of ethics and an expected onslaught of competition in the U.K. from The Limited's Bath & Body Works chain.
Critics have accused the Body Shop of cultivating a false image as a socially conscious and environmentally protective company. The Body Shop has heatedly denied the charges.
"I read and re-read what has been written about us, and there isn't a lot of substance," said Gordon Roddick, chairman, to WWD Wednesday during one of his first interviews on the controversy. "People are waiting for a huge explosion to happen from all this, and all there is is a damp squib."
"If you are trying to change things you are usually quite noisy, and we have from time to time been very noisy in the press," Roddick said of the Body Shop's controversial approach to cosmetics marketing. "I guess this time the press wants to be noisy with us."
Body Shop appears unshaken. It has not bothered to go on the offensive with its own publicity campaign or special promotions at the consumer level. It is not meeting with British financial institutions in an attempt to counteract the negative publicity, and it is not changing any of its business practices, Roddick said.
"We are not perfect. We've often said we've made heaps of mistakes and will continue to do so. But we try extremely hard. Who else in the corporate world tries as hard as we do in these areas?"
As for the arrival of Bath & Body Works in Britain, Roddick said Body Shop already competes with the chain in the U.S. and is not concerned. He pointed out that many U.S. retailers have failed to establish themselves successfully in the U.K., where there are fewer shopping malls.
In addition, Roddick questioned whether his newest competition -- Bath & Body Works -- can be successful with its U.S. pricing structure, which is about 20 percent higher than Body Shop's. Bath & Body Works executives could not be reached for comment Thursday.
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