Avon looks set to be calling at many more UK homes after the cosmetics company revealed that the number of people signing up to be sales representatives had more than doubled in the lockdown.
The company, which boasts 5 million “reps” globally, said it had seen a 114% “surge” in the number of new representatives joining its UK business since lockdown began.
Founded in 1886, Avon has been struggling to keep pace with changing consumer tastes and habits, and has faced increased competition from new brands backed by online influencers. But the company said the pandemic had prompted many people to look for new ways of earning cash, and that, amid a looming jobs crisis, growing numbers were on the hunt for opportunities to supplement their income.
It said the spike in sign-ups came amid predictions that the economic impacts of Covid-19 would be “disproportionately felt by women”.
The company has also changed its commission structure, so that reps can now earn 20% on their sales of £1 and over. Previously sales had to reach £90 before reps qualified for commission.
Sian Erith, who lives in Norfolk, kickstarted her Avon business during lockdown as restrictions forced her to take a break from a career in hairdressing. Using social media to generate online sales at a time when personal selling was not possible, Sian said she earned £600 in her first three weeks.
Avon was founded in 1886 by David McConnell, a travelling book salesman who found that female customers – who often answered the door because their husbands were at work – were more interested in the free perfume samples he offered as an additional perk. McConnell recruited women to act as sales agents for the products he mixed from an office in New York.
Avon’s UK business launched in 1959, and the first “Ding dong, Avon calling” TV adverts aired in 1964, and it soon became a British catchphrase.
The rise of social media has fuelled rapid change in the beauty market, helping to launch brands backed by online influencers, such as Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty and Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics, which are now challenging the big, established names.
However, the company – now owned by the Brazilian beauty group Natura, also the owner of The Body Shop – remains one of the biggest names in the world of “direct selling” – which does not use shops – and claims to have a huge reach in the UK. It claims to be one of the top three beauty brands in the country “with six million women seeing an Avon brochure every three weeks”.
Angela Cretu, Avon’s chief executive, said: “As the recession tightens its grasp on communities in the wake of Covid-19, people are looking for new ways to earn.” She added that the company was preparing for “a tidal wave” of new sign-ups.
Cretu also said that many of the reps played a crucial role within their communities, as they often provided support to vulnerable individuals by picking up prescriptions and helping with shopping.
The 114% increase relates to those signing up between 23 March and 7 June this year compared with the same period in 2019.