Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Avon Phenomenon: Perfume business makes sense

Telegram Staff Writer

'No way! You can buy Avon in a store?'
Leticia Solemon squealed in delight at the idea. Cruising the halls at Temple Mall, the 45-year-old woman's attention had just turned to the new Licensed Avon Beauty Center. She had spotted the store sign.
'Well now,' she said. 'Isn't that something? No more catalogs.'
With the revelation came a desire to purchase some hand cream and a perfume set. No longer at the mall to 'get some walking in,' Ms. Solemon became a Tuesday customer.
Comments of surprise - that's all the Avon storeowner has heard since the Aug. 18 grand opening.
'People can't believe there's an Avon store,' said owner Mary Kirkpatrick of Rosebud. 'A lot have come in and asked if I was sure it was Avon.'
She's sure.
'All of the merchandise is Avon stock,' Ms. Kirkpatrick said. 'We've had good traffic through here, despite the recent rain.'

The concept of the Licensed Avon Beauty Center is fairly new. The first one was established in 2000.
'They are at retail locations that are owned and operated by Avon Representatives,' said Lindsay Blaker, public relations manager for Avon Inc. 'It's a great way for them to reach more customers and to complement their direct sales approach.'
Note that Ms. Blaker said Avon Representative. That's the term Avon uses for the bulk of its employees, the part-time sales people who sell products door-to-door via catalog.
'That's right. It's the same old Avon Lady, but it's a new generation,' said Stephanie DuPre, area coordinator. 'The Avon Lady owns her own store and can profit from it.'
A lot of perks come with the new-and-improved Avon Lady.
'At the store, somebody can talk to you about the product and how to apply it,' Ms. Kirkpatrick said. 'You can touch it, feel it and try it - all before you order it from a catalog. Because it's right there on the shelf.'
Customer Judy Ailer of Rosebud is grateful for the convenience of the Avon store.
'It's great,' she said. 'It's absolutely wonderful to get in, buy it. You don't have to order and wait a couple of weeks.'
Customer Pat Gilbert of Cameron agrees. She likes the convenience as well, but the appearance of the Avon store in Temple means something else to her.
'These times have changed,' Ms. Gilbert said. 'There ¹s not a lot of stay-at-home moms anymore, so the Avon Lady can't ring their doorbell anymore.'
The women aren't there to answer.
'So Avon made the store to make it available to more people,' Ms. Gilbert said.
Getting its products to Avon customers has always been the company's key goal.
'It was true when the company started 120 years ago, it was true when the first doorbell rang, it was true when we first went online - and it's true now,' Ms. Baker said.
Ms. Gilbert appreciates the company's dedication to cater to its customers.
'My mother and sister were Avon Ladies, so I know Avon,' she said. 'I remember the cologne, the purses and the collectibles. It's all boxed up in storage somewhere.'
It may change and grow with the world around it, but one thing remains the same about Avon, Ms. Gilbert said. 'You still get to sit down and talk with someone.'
These days it won ¹t be with the woman who delivered your catalog, it will be with the woman behind the cash register who can tell you about your purchase.
Test Yourself
1. What year did Avon celebrate its centennial?
A) 1986 B) 1976 C)1996 D) 1966
2. What was the first Avon product?
A) Wild Rose fragrance B) Ice Shimmer
C) Little Dot Perfume set D) Lavender Mist
3. What was Avon's first name?
A) McConnell & Sons B) California Perfume Co.
C) Albee Inc. D) Fragrance & Beauty
4. To date, what percentage of employees work on a part-time basis?
A) 20 percent B) 35 percent C) 62 percent D) 95 percent
5. To date, what is Avon's best-sold gift item?
A) Avon Barbie doll B) Skin-so-Soft gift set
C) 'Just for Her Fragrance' D) Mine, perfume and cream
Did you know?
-- In 1939, David McConnell Jr., the founder of the California Perfume Company, changed his company’s name to Avon Products, Inc., in honor of his admiration for playwright and poet William Shakespeare (1564-1616), who was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England.
-- In 1941, the United States entered World War II (1939-45), and half of Avon’s New York manufacturing plant was converted to military use.
How well did you do on the Avon quiz ?
Answers: 1.A 2.C 3.B 4.D 5.A