Avon can be traced back as far a 1886, when a struggling door-to-door book salesman David McConnell decided he was going to sell perfume. Originally known as The California Perfume Company. David never intended on starting a beauty company, but only to be able to add additional perks to his female customers. David started brewing his own fragrances in a small office space in a New York City, calling his product line “The Little Dot Perfume Set” which consisted of 5 scents; violet, lily of the valley, white rose, hyacinth, and heliotrope.
David McConnell, also appointed Avon’s First General Agent, Mrs. Albee. This was done at a time even before women had the right to vote. Mrs. Albee is a standing legend for Avon and the company they have become today. She was able to form a solid base for the company, within 6 months she had over 100 salespeople and their customer base. Within 12 years, she was able to recruit and train over 5,000 representatives.
In addition to newly added fragrances, there was other products that were be added to the product line as well. Some of the more popular products were things such as Spot Remover, Witch Hazel Cream, Food Flavorings to even things like Machine Oil and Mending Cement.
In 1896, ten years into the business, David McConnell hired a well known perfumer with 25 years experience, the following year a new lab was built to help expand the line of perfumes. Also a notable thing had that same year, the first illustrated catalog was produced.
By the 20th year in business, there was over 100 items on the product line. By 1914, the expansion of the company went international, opening an office in Montreal Canada. Avon’s first products to appear in The California Perfume Company were the Toothbrush, Cleanser and Vanity Set– which appeared in 1920.
The name Avon came from the area surrounding the Suffren, New York perfume lab that was built in 1879, that reminded David McConnell of William Shakespeare’s home, Stratford-On-Avon in England. Sticking to the original idea of door-to-door sales and catalogs filled with low-cost home and beauty products, the company surpassed 2 million dollars in sales by its 40 year in business 1926. By the late 1920’s, the company was doing business in 48 of the US states and Canada. By this time there was thousands of representatives, all under the supervision of Mrs. Albee, that were forming one of the first opportunities for women to embrace in earning an independent income without interfering with their role as the homemakers.
By 1932, the company has launched it’s 3 week campaign strategy. When David McConnell passed away 5 years later, David McConnell Jr. took over for the next 7 years. In 1939, The California Perfume Company was re-branded Avon due to the product lines success and popularity.
During the 1950’s the new Avon made several changes, most notable of them being the expansion into the overseas regions and its rapid increase in sales. Avon advertisement introduced it’s famous slogan “Ding Dong, Avon Calling” commercial that was first aired in 1954. The same year Avon opened offices in Puerto Rico and Venezuela, marking the beginning of the venture into the Latin American market. In 1957, it entered the European region by launching the Avon Institute of Cosmetics in the United Kingdom.
During the late 1960’s, the 3 week campaign went to the current 2 week campaign to help improve sales with the exception of a few overseas markets. The 1970’s proved to bring some of the companies most challenging times in history. Even though, in 1971 it started it’s profitable line of costume jewelry making Avon the top manufacturer of jewelry within just 5 years, and in 1972 sales topped 1 billion dollars. In 1973, Avon’s growth stalled. The company was hit hard with recession and the increased number of women entering into the workforce. In 1975 over 25,000 Avon ladies quit and Avon’s products were being undone by retail companies offering better products to women with a new attitude.
A combination of all of these factors eventually played into a restructuring of Avon. Avon’s overhaul led to a more contemplating appeal with more advertisement and revamped sales. Over next decade in the 1980’s there were various acquisitions including jewelry and medical/healthcare companies resulting in a loss for Avon. Diversification with largely popular perfume companies proved to be more stable for Avon. After Liz Claiborne dissolved it’s agreement with Avon, leaving Avon strapped for money. Avon sold another company in the early 1990’s. Keeping it relationship with Giorgio’s which was nationally a top-seller well into the 1990’s. Under the parentage of Avon introduced several new products to the Giorgio’s line.
Early to mid 1990’s Avon was able to gain financial stability. An investment firm, which interestingly enough included the CFO of Mary Kay Cosmetics. However, the largest deterrent of this takeover bid was the strong-minded sales representatives that stated they would not be willing to work for them.
Avon focused on renewing its sales within the United States, by turning their focus of selling through means of direct mail by using full colored catalogs to promote their products. This measure increased sales drastically for the company. As Avon began to stand on a more solid ground financially, it allowed for them to focus again on expanding worldwide. Avon also starting selling online via the internet, opening a whole new venue for the company.
After selling off the Giorgio line in 1994, Avon started promoting products carrying it’s own name instead. Avon continued to strengthen it’s growth internationally. Expansion continued as Avon introduced the selling of sportswear and women’s apparel in it’s direct mail catalogs.
Andrea Jung, the 1st woman CEO of Avon was named the CEO in 1999, after joining Avon in 1994. Under her supervision, Avon began it’s brand turnaround as well as focusing on it’s US revenues, which accounted for nearly 30% of the company sales in 2000. Changes to it’s advertising, marketing, manufacturing, packaging, and selling strategies were put in to place as well. Adopting the tagline “A Company for Women”. Avon took on a mission to promote the Avon Lady and her products that could enter the new millennium with a new & fresh style and appeal.
Over the last almost 2 decades, there has been a continued investment in advertising and marketing. Avon stays up-to-date on the latest and newest skincare products, make-up, perfumes not to mention the added product lines that include apparel, shoes, kid’s care, toys, kitchen gadgets and much more. One of their latest line being the Home Living, which offers household items to add comfort to your home and the home of your loved ones.
Being a Avon Representative is so much more than just selling make-up and other items, It is about being apart of a company who knows what it is like to struggle and survive. It’s about feeling the empowerment to make a difference for others. Taking pride in not just supporting Breast Cancer, but actually fighting to help find the resources that women in that frightening situation need. It’s not about being in a competition with your fellow Avon representatives but helping them grow, the same as when others helped you grow. We are a family, a company, a team of women and a few good men that are in this together sharing an experience you can only imagine if you have the support that you get when you become an Avon Representative.
Looking back over the 130 year journey Avon has had, gives me a refreshed outlook on what I am capable of doing with such a honorable company. If you are not inspired by my blog, please read the history of the company for yourself, as my words can never do the true justice deserved by such an AMAZING company.
If you are interested in becoming part of the next phase of Avon’s history, please contact me. I would be happy to get you on the right track and get you the same amazing support I have been already been given and able to grow from and continue to do so. I can be contacted a variety of ways so find the one that works best for you and reach out to me. For a one-time low start up cost of $15, will help you in more than just one way.