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The Body Shop is Bullish on In-Store Refill Program

In April, beauty retailer The Body Shop expanded its in-store refill platform across the U.S. for a number of its best-selling products using a system of reusable bottles refilled by store employees from a dedicated station. In this Q&A, Hilary Lloyd, Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Responsibility for The Body Shop North America, outlines specifics of the program, including insights gleaned while developing the system.

Packaging World:

I understand that you installed refill stations at two concept stores in 2019. What did you learn from this experience about creating a successful refill-on-the-go system? Were there any concerns by consumers that had to be overcome?

Hilary Lloyd:

In that implementation, we learned two things. First, convenience is one of the greatest barriers to refilling. We want to make it easier for our customers to reduce their impact on the planet, so since the implementation, we’ve been in constant communication with our community. We want to hear from them so we can implement the changes they want to see. The second thing we learned was that one of the biggest logistical challenges was creating a refill station that works for all our countries and stores, to ensure we can launch in as many stores as possible. Due to the space restrictions in some of our smaller stores, we needed to create two different-sized stations, including a smaller version on wheels. Then, because each market has different regulatory requirements for refilling, we had to find a solution that worked for all markets. We are hoping to continue overcoming some of these challenges as we progress with our ambitious refill rollout.

The reusable, 10-oz bottle for shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, and hand wash refills is made from 100% PCR aluminum.What are your shower gels, shampoos, conditioners, and hand washes typically packaged in? Will this packaging still be an option once the refill concept has been rolled out across all your stores?

As we work to transition all products to be made of 100% recycled plastic, we already offer all our haircare and fragrance products with packaging made from 100% recycled plastic. We are working to have 100% of our packaging be reusable, recyclable, or compostable and made with at least 50% recycled plastic by 2030 with support from our parent company, Natura & Co. Our other products offered via refill—hand washes, body wash, etc.—are currently packaged with 25% recycled material. This packaging is still an option, however there is a cost-saving incentive to encourage customers to convert to refillable products. For example, if you were to buy our Ginger Shampoo in its standard pack, you’d pay $12 for 8.4 ounces of product, whereas with refill, you can get 10 ounces of product for $9 when you come back to refill.

What are the reusable bottles made from? Why did you choose this material?

The bottles are made of 100% post-consumer recycled aluminum, which is infinitely recyclable. The 10-ounce bottles are durable, easily recycled post-life, and use much less energy to produce than standard aluminum bottles.

I understand you began rolling out this platform in 2021 in 400 stores. What response have you received so far from consumers?

We have had an extremely positive response from our customers in the U.S. and feel really positive about what we’re seeing with adoption rates overall. We’re continuing to look at refill penetration as a percentage of overall sales compared to the standard pack, and our hope is that we’ll continue to see penetration develop as understanding of the program and its availability grows.

In terms of usage to-date, our refill stations are most popular among our younger customers. The demographic most engaged is customers between the ages of 20 to 29. The program is most popular in New York: Our top two stores are our NoHo [North of Houston Street] location on 747 Broadway and our Staten Island store.

Globally, we are seeing nearly one in five people return to refill their aluminum bottles with their favorite products—a higher repeat purchase rate than our recycled plastic bottles.

The reusable bottles are refilled by store clerks from a behind-the-counter refill station.Are you on-track for installing the program in 400 more stores in 2022?

Yes, in the past 12 months, we’ve launched 565 refill stations in more than 40 countries worldwide. By April 2026, we aim to have refill stations in the majority of our stores across the world (about 2,500).

As a brand owner, does this system provide benefits for your company versus single-use packaging, besides making your packaging more sustainable?

As one of the world’s largest B Corporations, The Body Shop meets the highest externally verified standard of environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. The ambitious rollout of refill stations demonstrates The Body Shop’s determination to raise the bar in sustainable and ethical beauty. Offering refills is our closest zero-waste packaging solution, which helps us easily embrace a more circular economy.

What is your ultimate goal for this program? Will you be offering more product categories in reusable packaging?

Our goal is to drive real change and reduce plastic use worldwide. With climate change being the greatest risk facing the future of our planet, we envision customers continuing to shift their purchasing power in support of businesses like The Body Shop that embrace a circular model and regenerative energy practices and ensure zero waste in packaging. We are currently exploring introducing refillable options on our website and are looking to expand to new refillable formats across other categories such as makeup.

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