“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 travelling 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 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 honour of Shakespeare. As the decades progressed, Avon stopped offering cookbooks and furniture polish, focusing solely on the cosmetics and jewellery.
Avon ladies left “no door unopened, no bell unrung” in their quest to make Avon the most widely available door-to-door product.
In addition to their new-fangled line of cosmetics, Avon had catalogues full of jewellery, especially tacky silver brooches that opened up to reveal stinky pots of lip gloss and waxy perfumed lotions. They also had seasonal bottles of this junk shaped like cars, women, kangaroos and household objects.
For some reason, Antique dealers of today don’t seem to realize the value of these items. Ironically, much of this stuff is now worth a small fortune on the collectors market via websites such as eBay.
When travelling 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 collectable, as is their fine line of jewellery. Their best-selling product is the miraculous dry skin lotion, Skin So Soft, which has a cult following among the mosquito-bitten.