The Body Shop has racked up £15m in debt over unpaid bills to its former owner Natura &Co, Retail Week can reveal.

The health and beauty chain, which is currently in administration, owes Natura the money for products supplied.

Retail Week understands the unpaid bills date from the brief period when private equity firm Aurelius took control of The Body Shop and before the brand collapsed into administration.

Despite the change in ownership at the end of last year, Retail Week understands that approximately 65% of The Body Shop’s product supply continues to come from the Avon factory in Poland, which is owned and controlled by Natura.

A source close to the situation said The Body Shop accrued the debt under former owner Aurelius, which bought the brand in November 2023.

The source added that, because of its effective stranglehold over The Body Shop’s manufacturing and logistics chains, Natura may ultimately play kingmaker in deciding who ends up buying the stricken brand next by threatening to withdraw product supply should the next owner not align with their brand.

The Brazilian cosmetics giant has come under scrutiny after The Body Shop fell into administration in February, less than three months after it agreed a sale with German private equity firm Aurelius.

FRP Advisory, which is handling the administration of the chain, has set an end-of-June deadline to finalise a sale of the business after plans for a company voluntary arrangement fell through.

Aurelius has ruled out returning with a bid for the stricken business. There were also rumours that Natura might be interested in buying The Body Shop back in a cut-price deal, but the cosmetics brand has flat-out refuted this.

Sources close to FRP said it has been “encouraged” by the level of interest in The Body Shop from potential bidders to date.

Natura, FRP and Aurelius all declined Retail Week’s request for comment.