This autumn Weleda UK Ltd will be celebrating its 40th anniversary at its UK HQ in Ilkeston, Derbyshire.
Weleda UK’s turnover has rocketed from £245,775 in 1978 to over £9m in 2018 – but the success hasn’t affected the cleaner beauty pioneer’s principles. It remains privately owned by its founders and true to its original ethos of working ‘in harmony with nature and the human being’.
For some years the British business failed to flourish, with annual sales in 1931 amounting to only £1,153. But by the 1960s the company was reporting significant growth as consumer demand for natural products increased.
Today Weleda is shipping around 15,000 products a day from its Ilkeston headquarters to customers nationwide, and has a very interactive following on Facebook of over 1.1million people as natural alternatives once more strike a chord with consumers.
Weleda is very much a business of women, and was significantly influenced by one of its founders – the inspirational female gynaecologist Dr Ita Wegman. The company takes its very name from the revered female healers and wise women known as Weledas, who looked after the health and wellbeing of their Ancient Celtic tribes.
With a British customer base that is over 94% female it is perhaps not surprising that 76% of the staff at Weleda’s Derbyshire offices is also female. But what is nevertheless remarkable is that Weleda’s team includes 70% female managers right across the business – from managing director to operations director, sales director, marketing director through to head gardener.
Weleda UK grows many of its own plants organically. Weleda’s original half-acre gardens in 1978 have expanded to become 13 acres of Demeter-certified medicinal herb gardens up the road at Shipley, where Weleda grows over 50 species.
The original small garden at Heanor Road is now a beautiful ornamental herb garden outside Weleda’s Garden Room, part of Weleda’s training centre, which welcomes several hundred visitors each year. The main fields at Shipley open their gates to thousands of visitors each year on special open days, raising funds for the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust or local charities.
‘We are already looking ahead to our centenary in 2021 as the pioneer and now global brand leader for certified natural cosmetics and natural medicines. In the UK we set ourselves the challenge of doubling our business and we are delivering on that promise with exciting new products made here in Derbyshire and exported around the Weleda globe. It’s an exciting moment to be operating in the natural health and beauty industry as more and more consumers are looking for cleaner or greener products for their wellbeing.’
Weleda’s managing director
Former managing director Penny Viner oversaw the move to Derbyshire in 1978. She is pictured in the main image with Bob Bollard, another previous MD, current MD Jayn Sterling and former Weleda board director and superintendent pharmacist Hella Levi, who is now in her mid-90s.
Penny said, ‘We were a new entity in this small, closely knit community and quite what people made of us initially I don’t know! But we were soon accepted and many people wanted to come and work for us. The business settled and started to grow, we recruited young people – some of whom still work for the company today!’
Over 15,000 products a day are dispatched by Weleda in Derbyshire to health and beauty retailers nationwide, hospitals and clinics, complementary health practitioners, beauty therapists and consumers shopping at Weleda’s online store.
Weleda UK sells over 120 natural and organic cosmetics, approximately 90 over-the-counter medicines, and nearly 300 further remedies produced specifically for prescription by doctors in hospitals, clinics and general practice.
In 1978 Weleda’s top selling product in the UK was Arnica Massage Balm. Interestingly it remains Weleda’s best-selling medicinal product (both value and volume) and has fathered an entire family of arnica products. Today Arnica is an ingredient that features in over 20 Weleda lines, with products containing arnica accounting for over 11% of Weleda’s total net sales in the UK.
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