Eco-friendly cosmetics giant Body Shop is understood to have appointed a former Sainsbury’s rising star for a top role.

Xavier Vidal, formerly Sainsbury’s convenience trading director, will start as commercial director of Body Shop’s 2,500-store network next month, sources said.

As well as his Sainsbury’s experience, Vidal brings buying and category management expertise gained at Tesco and French group Auchan, as well as e-tail knowledge. He attended Harvard Business School.

Body Shop, which was acquired by cosmetics powerhouse L’Oréal in 2006, suffered a 3.3 per cent dip in sales in the first quarter, although sales rose 2.5 per cent excluding the effect of acquisitions and currency fluctuations. L’Oréal chief executive Jean-Paul Agon described Body Shop’s performance over the period as resilient.

Retail knowledge Bank senior partner Robert Clark said the challenge for Body Shop was to maintain its unique status – created by legendary founder Dame Anita Roddick – while being part of a bigger corporation and as other retailers make a play for its ethical retailing territory.

He said: “Body Shop could look dated. Everybody else has been getting into corporate social responsibility issues and the danger is that Body Shop, an iconic brand, becomes mainstream.”

He said that Vidal would bring big scale retail experience but would need to be careful to protect Body Shop’s position. “Is mainstream grocery what Body Shop is all about?
Is it about process or brand?”

Vidal could not be contacted for comment. A Body Shop spokeswoman declined to comment.