There’s been a sharp rise in the number of people signing up to sell Avon beauty products during lockdown.
Between late March and early June, the number of new UK sales representatives was double that in the same period last year.
The company appears to have benefitted from more people finding themselves at home with time on their hands, or in need of work.
Tracy Powers of Avon UK says people see it as a good source of income.
“The majority of people who are joining the business at the moment are those who’ve been affected by the global pandemic and are either being furloughed or are worried about their jobs,” she says.
Although for most of Avon’s 130-year history the company relied on door-to-door sales of its cosmetics and perfume range, recently the firm has sold far more products online, a shift that was accelerated during the pandemic.
In the past few months, dozens of new social media accounts have sprung up advertising Avon’s products, each page controlled by individual sellers and linked to their own online shopping portals.
Across the wider beauty sector, online sales have been surprisingly resilient throughout lockdown, as some consumers shifted to online retailers for the first time and others sought foundations and skincare products since popular facial treatments were unavailable.
In the first six months of 2020, digital transactions were three times higher than in the first half of 2019.
Jade Cobham had a part-time job at Next until her branch in south London closed permanently during lockdown. Since joining Avon in May, she’s earned around £300 in sales.
“I distributed brochures to all my neighbours but a lot of them weren’t interested,” she says. Jade had better luck selling to people who work with her family members, and using social media.
“Once you get customers, they stay as regulars,” she says.
Ms Cobham says she hasn’t had any overhead costs because she received the £15 product starter pack for free during a recent Avon recruitment drive.
Usually, Avon only pays commission once sales reps sell £90 of goods, but during the crisis the company lowered that threshold to £1.
She recently graduated with a degree in bioscience, but she plans to continue selling Avon products while studying for her Masters.
“I find since you do it at your own pace and you can do it from home, you can juggle school work as well,” she says. But she doesn’t expect to earn enough income from Avon alone.
“I think it will increase but as of right now I don’t think it will be sufficient. I’ll see how this goes and look for a Saturday job,” she says.
Norfolk-based Hairdresser Sian Erith found herself with no income at all for the first few months of lockdown, until she received a government grant in June.
She started selling Avon products in May and earned £600 in her first three weeks.
“I was quite surprised. I didn’t put in too much time to get that,” she says.
She said sales came from keeping her social media pages up to date and keeping customers interested in offers or new products.
Following mum’s footsteps
“It’s not really too much hard work to be honest, it’s just keeping your customers happy.”
Ms Erith has now become a team leader, who recruits other sellers and earns commission from their sales.
“My mum used to do Avon when I was really little, and just researching Avon, the products and prices were suited to the estate where I live,” she says.
“I thought it might be nice to get my own team.”
But not everyone is sure they’re going to continue selling Avon products once the pandemic is over.
Dalia Vaitkute is an artist based in Dromore, Northern Ireland. Normally, she sells customised watercolour paintings through her online Etsy store, but as the UK went into lockdown, orders for her portraits dried up.
“I would usually be doing custom work – weddings, anniversaries and big celebrations, then everything stopped,” she says.
Ms Vaitkute went from earning up to £400 a week doing 3-4 paintings, to next to nothing.
“I had no work. I was also working as a private house cleaner and ironing and that stopped as well, so I thought maybe it’s a good time to try Avon because they were doing product deliveries to homes,” she says.
Dalia says she sold to around 10 customers doing lockdown, but she didn’t spend much time trying to build up sales. She much preferred styling photographs of the products for Instagram.
“For me I was earning very very little, about £50 a month, but I wasn’t doing any work,” she says.
“It kept me busy – it wasn’t for money. I did a giveaway on Facebook.”
Recently her painting business has been picking up again.
“I will keep Avon as a hobby if I have enough time,” she says.