Published: 17 June 2013
Another Bloody Shower Gel might not sound like the most inspiring name for the launch of, er, another bloody shower gel. Neither does You Need a Blooming Shower gel seem like something you’d buy as a gift. Nor Peachy Head — shampoo “for suicidal hair”.
But since Anatomicals company, the maker of these and other bathroom products, is on track to hit sales of £4 million of this year, the £3 potions seem to be cleaning up. No surprise that Paul and Gary Marshall, the brothers behind the company, used to work in advertising. The copywriter and art director respectively say that the idea for their business arose out of one strapline: “We only want you for your body.”
“That came first,” Gary explains. “We didn’t really have a clue what it would sell. Clothing, food, sports equipment, and vitamins were all ideas that we dismissed, in the end, in favour of toiletries and cosmetics.”
But the industry was one the duo knew nothing about. To find suppliers and buyers, they sought expert advice from veterans including George Hammer, who owns Harrods’ spa Urban Retreat.
“A few of those industry figures sent us down the wrong road,” Paul admits. “Under their advice, one of our first products was a male ejaculation delay gel called A Long Time Coming. But its success never did come, which is a lesson never to take the word of those who you think know better than you. Frequently, they don’t.”
Another early idea was a hangover cure called Bender Mender. “It actually worked,” Paul says. “But EU regulations meant you couldn’t make any claims about hangover stuff, so we dropped it after a few years. And we had launched it with a mad Russian woman, who had used the stuff with the Russian navy. And she’s now in Siberia, in a salt mine.” This information is followed by a long, mad laugh.
Anatomicals’ first product hit the shelves eight years ago, and the business now makes 55 potions, on sale in Boots, Selfridges, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, online at Asos and more.
The company also has licensing deals covering Australia, Germany, France, Italy and Sweden, the US and Eastern Europe. Their products are soon to stock Malmaison hotel bathrooms; a Christmas pack for Tesco is also in production.
“We just picked up the phone, spoke to buyers, and they liked our stuff,” says Paul. “But a lot of the time, people have got in touch with us. We’re in more than 300 stores of a large German group called Douglas after they got in contact. We often wonder what draws the Germans to our slightly daft brand. Do they understand our silly jokes and cultural references? Probably not, but we’d just like to say ‘danke schön’ to them all.” The pair put in £150,000 of their own cash to launch Anatomicals, and haven’t yet taken outside investment. “This has advantages in that there’s no one to tell us what to do,” says Gary. “But if we’re being honest, it also has its disadvantages in that it perhaps hasn’t allowed us to grow as large as quickly as we might have wanted.”
Paul reckons the reason Anatomicals company won licensing deals with brands including Virgin Atlantic and Carphone Warehouse was that “large, like-minded companies tend to approach us because they seem to like our slightly skewed, crazy thinking.”
As an example, there’s Sniff, the office dog. “He is the ‘pooch de parfum’ — his nose, as is the case with all dogs, is thousands of times more sensitive than any human’s,” says Paul. “He is the most important part of the team. If he turns his hooter up at a particular fragrance, the great British public are likely to do the same.”
Now the business is branching out — the brothers have just launched Manatomicals, aimed at the male grooming market. The range includes You’re No One’s Beau With BO hair and body wash and Young Free and Tingle body wash. Then there’s Tanatomicals (“the Holy Grail for the deathly pale”), to bite into the self-tan market. But they’re vague about their future plans. The aim is “just to keep making folk smile in their bathrooms and make enough cash to remodel our respective bathrooms into something that would shame a Russian oligarch”, says Paul.