Fashion Synopsis

“Ding, dong. Avon calling.”

The most successful door-to-door makeup enterprise in history, Avon has been bringing front door service to housewives since 1886. The company was the brainchild of David H. McConnell, a book salesman from New York. An expert traveling salesman, Mr. McConnell used vials of perfume to entice his female customers to open their doors and pocketbooks to him and his books. When the perfume was a bigger hit than the books he was peddling, Mr. McConnell changed his course.

With the assistance of one of his employees, a Mrs. PFE Albee, Mr. McConnell sold perfumes to eager ladies under the name California Perfume Company. Knowing that housewives would trust other ladies more than men, Mrs. Albee enlisted women as the sales force. The concept worked: Avon ladies were the first conglomeration of American women to be financially independent with a respectable profession. They might not have had the right to vote, but they could bring cosmetics and household goods to the living room. Now that’s progress!

Flourishing in the housewares market, the California Perfume Company changed its name to Avon in 1939, after a product line named in honor of Shakespeare. As the decades progressed, Avon stopped offering the cookbooks and furniture polish, focusing solely on the cosmetics and jewelry. Avon ladies left ‘no door unopened, no bell unrung’ in their quest to make Avon the most widely available door-to-door product.

When traveling salesmen were being replaced by malls, Avon remained on top: their unique product and friendly staff are welcomed into homes as much today as yesterday. Many homemakers still look forward to their weekly visit from the Avon lady, bringing bags of goodies ordered through their catalogue. Avon bottles are collectible, as is their fine line of jewelry. Their best selling product is the miraculous dry skin lotion, ‘Skin So Soft,’ which has a cult following among the mosquito bitten.

Avon continues to sell cosmetics and toiletries, jewelry and apparel. There are over 1.5 million Avon ladies (and 2,000 men) who continue the custom started by Mr. McConnell and Mrs. Albeeover over 100 years ago. In a world of dying traditions, Avon is something you can count on.

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