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Avon, the Cosmetics Giant

Before Avon was Avon, it was a traveling book seller named David H. McConnell. He sold books from door to door, but as it turned out, his customers were more intrigued by the free samples of perfume that came with his books than they were with the books themselves. And so, an idea was born which became Avon, giving women independence and a means to support themselves decades before women were even allowed to vote.

A Revolutionary Idea

David H. McConnell was originally a seller of books who had an interesting gimmick to get his foot in the door. He would make his own perfumes at home, and give them away as free samples to those who would take the time to consider his books. Unfortunately, his customers, mostly women at home while their husbands worked, found the perfumes far more interesting than the books.

It was time for the Union Publishing House to change its focus. In 1886, it became the California Perfume Company. Almost from the start, the company that would become Avon used the direct selling method that has made it so famous over the years. Their first representative was Mrs. Persis Foster Eames Albee, picked by McConnell himself to sell perfumes to other women, in a day when the vast majority of women did not work outside the home, and those that did were either domestic servants or did clerical work.

Mrs. P.F.E. Albee traveled all over her area, taking trains, horse and buggy, whatever it took to sell her products door-to-door. She loved her work, and she was a natural at it. The scents then were simple, but popular, made from a single note like white rose, hyacinth, heliotrope, violet, or lily-of-the-valley. Today, Mrs. Albee is a legend of Avon, an example for all other Avon Representatives to follow.

The California Perfume Company began to publish its famous sales brochures in 1896. Only six years later, the company had 10,000 women working for them, creating opportunities where none had existed before.

The name Avon was first used in 1928, the name taken from the birthplace of McConnell’s favorite playwright, William Shakespeare. Finally, in 1939, the name of the company was changed officially. Eight years later, Avon went public, and it then went international, selling its cosmetics and fragrances all over the world.

Some Avon Samples

The company that would eventually become Avon started by selling perfumes, and these have been a pillar of Avon since the beginning, from the single-note fragrances sold by the California perfume company to the perfumes bearing celebrity names today. It started as an endeavor for women to sell women’s products to other women, but it has long since opened up, selling a little something for everyone, like fragrances for men.

Some of these fragrances have become classics, still sold after decades. Once such is Wild Country, a men’s fragrance. This musky, floral, aromatic cologne certainly evokes the image of its name with an invitingly masculine aroma. It is a complex but wholly pleasing creation with notes of lavender, amber, heliotrope, cedar, geranium, vanilla, and a number of other scents, perfectly blended and balanced.

A somewhat newer offering is Mesmerize, another fragrance for men, an aromatic cologne infused with citrus. It opens with apple, bergamot, and mandarin orange, and underneath are myrrh and other exotic spices, mixed with amber and woody tones. It is playful, mysterious, and masculine, all at once.

Universally Appealing

More than 100 years after the creation of the California Perfume Company, there are still many, many women selling perfumes from door to door (along with jewelry, cosmetics, and other products), along with an increasing number of men. Avon has truly become a universal company over the years. Avon training centers teach representatives-to-be the details of Avon creations and how to sell them, but each of these representatives is a business of her (or his) own, many of them living very well from the proceeds.

Today, there are more than six million Avon representatives in more than 100 countries around the world. Always an innovator, Avon has never been behind the curve when it comes to using technology or celebrity names to bring Avon to more people. Such celebrities as Courtney Cox, Reese Witherspoon, and Patrick Dempsey have all been spokespersons for the company at some point. In the United States, in Europe, in South America – even in China, Avon is calling.

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