Avon Ladies see need for complete company makeover

Fri Mar 16, 2012 1:42pm EDT
 
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By Phil Wahba

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Avon Ladies are looking for a makeover.

One of the biggest challenges facing the next chief executive of Avon Products Inc. will be to re-energize the iconic Avon Ladies, the company's diminished and often demoralized army of U.S. sales representatives.

The world's largest direct-selling cosmetics company, famous for the "Ding Dong, Avon Calling" advertisements in the 1950s and 1960s, is more in need of a complete makeover than just a touch-up, according to more than a dozen sales "reps."

In interviews, they called for improved commissions, a break on what they pay for brochures, less pressure on them to recruit new reps, and more exciting products to compete with popular brands like LVMH's Sephora.

Avon is searching for a new CEO to replace Andrea Jung, 53, who is stepping down after years of U.S. sales declines and, more recently, poor performances in key markets such as Brazil and Russia. The company also faces a federal probe into whether it broke U.S. anti-bribery laws overseas.

The yet-to-be-named CEO will have the large task of overseeing a major review of Avon's business planned for this year. He or she will have to start by winning back the confidence of sales reps like Joan Dikowitz, a 63-year-old school bus driver from Tilson, New York.

Dikowitz, who sells Avon products for extra cash, says she makes about $300 a month in commissions, barely half of what she used to earn a few years ago.

"It's not as lucrative. Absolutely," Dikowitz said. She sees little potential in the business and no longer bothers to hunt for new customers.   Continued...

 
Avon ladies are seen selling products at a sale in New York April 18, 2009. The New York-based company, famous for the "Ding Dong, Avon Calling" advertisements in the 1950s and 1960s, is more in need of a complete makeover than just a touch-up, according to interviews with more than a dozen sales 'reps'. Picture taken April 18, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Thayer