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‘I love the products’ - Norfolk women reveal why they became an ‘Avon lady’ as sign-ups surge

PUBLISHED: 06:52 27 July 2020 | UPDATED: 06:52 27 July 2020

Avon rep Kiah Miller from Gorleston. Photo: Kiah Miller

Avon rep Kiah Miller from Gorleston. Photo: Kiah Miller

Kiah Miller

Avon has seen a surge of people signing up to be reps during coronavirus lockdown - but why?

Barbara Downes was a former Avon lady in the 1970s. Photo: Barbara DownesBarbara Downes was a former Avon lady in the 1970s. Photo: Barbara Downes

From lipsticks and perfumes, to moisturiser and anti-aging serums, since 1959 Avon has been responsible for meeting all of our beauty needs.

And although the way we order may have changed since then - from a knock on a door to now a click of a button - millions of men and women are still signing up to become part of the Avon family.

In the last week, the company reported that it had seen a 144% increase in people signing up from March 23 to June 7.

It claims that the increase in new joiners was sparked amid fears of job losses due to the pandemic and lockdown restrictions.

Barbara Downes, former Avon rep, with her family in the 1970s. Photo: Barbara DownesBarbara Downes, former Avon rep, with her family in the 1970s. Photo: Barbara Downes

The role’s felexibility has proved an attractive proposition for many, with the ability to work around either full-time employment or other life commitments.

Avon CEO, Angela Cretu, even said the company was preparing for a “tidal wave” of women reps signing up.

But what is it really like?

Barbara Downes, from Aylsham, remembers her time as a rep back in 1975, when she signed up to earn extra income after leaving her job as a teacher to care for her two young children.

Avon ladies of Hellesdon, Kerry Ridley and Rosemary Chamberlen, in 1992. Picture: Archant LibraryAvon ladies of Hellesdon, Kerry Ridley and Rosemary Chamberlen, in 1992. Picture: Archant Library

The 74-year-old said: “When I was expecting my second child, I had to give up teaching because there were no options for maternity leave and my husband went off to London to do a social work course.

“We were very poor and I needed to find something to keep our heads above water and Avon was another way of earning a bit of money and getting me out of the house.”

Going from door to door with her children in a push chair, Mrs Downes, who lived in Taverham at the time, delivered Avon brochures to homes and took cash or a cheque from customers who wished to order.

Despite a lot changing since her time as a rep 45 years ago, with the majority of sales now done online, some of the company’s bestselling products have stayed the same.

Gracie Miller, 4, daughter of Avon rep, Kiah Miller. Photo: Kiah MillerGracie Miller, 4, daughter of Avon rep, Kiah Miller. Photo: Kiah Miller

Ms Downes added: “A product that used to sell well was ‘Skin so Soft’, it was a body oil and you sprayed it on. I was told that is still one of their best sellers today and you can use it as a mosquito repellent.

“I can remember one of the perfumes was called honey suckle and I used one called Timeless - just talking about it I can smell it now.

“Talcum powder was used a lot more then as well.”

After moving to Cromer with her family, three years after becoming a rep, Ms Downes left Avon to run a children’s home with her husband.

Skin so Soft has been an Avon best seller for more than 40 years. Photo: Kiah MillerSkin so Soft has been an Avon best seller for more than 40 years. Photo: Kiah Miller

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But she said she isn’t surprised the company is still going strong today.

“The reason it endures is because you have a lot of loyal people who have grown up with Avon and they like their products,” said Mrs Downes.

Kiah Miller is a young mum from Gorleston who was one of the new wave to sign up to become a rep for the company in April.

Avon products sold by rep Kiah Miller. Photo: Kiah MillerAvon products sold by rep Kiah Miller. Photo: Kiah Miller

She echoed Mrs Downes’ thoughts - saying flexibility was a big part of taking on the role.

She said: “It just gives you some freedom because it’s so hard to get a job when you’re a single parent, so to be able to work alongside parenting is amazing.

“It’s extra income and it’s a fun thing to do. I speak to reps from all over the UK and you create new friendship groups.

“And me and my daughter do it together at home, so it’s nice for her to be involved as well.

“During lockdown I think a lot of people signed up for those reasons.”

Like Mrs Downes, Ms Miller chose a career as an Avon rep to provide for her family while being a stay-at-home mum.

Ms Miller added: “With Avon a lot of it is now online. I have a Facebook group and I have my own website where I can share links and an online brochure.

“It has been going really well and I have also been doing raffles on my page, which are fun.

“I love the Avon products so it’s great to get a discount as well.

“I buy a lot for my daughter, like the Skin so Soft insect repellent, it is also a moisturiser and it has loads of different benefit. That has been a best seller for years.”


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