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Zealot Crusader

Avon Mad Men - A Masculine Fragrance History Pt 7: Is Avon Still Calling? Not in America.

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We can't really blame Avon for the state of things post-2010. The American consumer market had been slowly drifting away from the brand since the mid-1980's, when they initially failed to keep up with market trends and went into their own little cultish detached world by the 90's. Only folks who were 2nd and 3rd-generation Avon loyals that had grown up with the brand were really chomping at the bit for their products, which is a similar problem Sears faced in it's stores until its bankruptcy, leading to new generations of potential customers buying only briefly out of morbid curiousity or seeing them as irrelevant after a few awkward experiences. All the lovely new revitalization products and business ventures gave the company a burst of capital and newfound interest, especially in foreign markets, but ultimately put Avon in debt.

That's really what this last chapter is all about: Where Avon is now and why they went there. Without getting too political, it's a safe observation that wealth inequality is returning to levels in Western society not seen since Avon formed in the late 19th century "Gilded Age", while entire parts of the world that aren't war-stricken are finally developing to levels of economic power they should have been at 50 years ago, and that's where the demand for Avon's "value-conscious luxury" is unsurprisingly highest. South America and former Eastern-Bloc European countries are where the money is at for Avon, as those nations are just starting to enjoy amenities that Americans have long ago passed on as quaint or obnoxiously jingoistic, including door-to-door direct sales, "Americana" mid-tier dining chains, sprawling shopping malls, and gimmickgly fast food.

In the eyes of many Americans, designers sit where drugstore companies used to sit 40 years ago due to the income gap and ubiquity of designer branding, with ultra-expensive prestige brands or niche perfumers with their limited-distribution products sitting where the designer labels once did on the beauty counters of surviving high-end department stores. For everything else, there's Amazon and the gray market of eBay, which is where many US Avon reps are still ostensibly operating, often with a mix of new and discontinued product. The new British owners of Avon now smartly focus the majority of new products in places like Poland, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, India, and Argentina. Americans have a small spinoff Avon Products LLC that operates independently of the survivng primary company, selling a limited array of new items and stocking the classics that remain in production locally, mostly free of IFRA regulation and reformulated only on a cost basis since Avon distributes what they still make themselves mostly in the markets where they're made, like they always have.

The modern Avon takes many cues from the entry-level designer crowd it competes against by making annual flankers of popular lines, which for guys means there are now a dozen flavors of Black Suede (1980) to choose from on top of the usual suspects. America still only gets the value-oriented stuff but in it's hotter Eastern European markets, new luxury masculines at eau de parfum concentration exist, plus more competitive and contemporary fragrances including collabs with designers like Kenző Takada. Suffice it to say Canada and the United States will never see those new scents, but the occasional new aquatic might trickle over, if buying new reformulations of the same old Wild Country (1967) or Mesmerize for Men (1992) no longer cuts it. It's possible but extremely difficult to import the new Avon stuff, because they don't sell to stores and won't sell a product released in one market to a customer from another directly from their website.

Besides, young guys looking to pinch pennies on smelling good will just use a body spray or layer themselves in one of Old Spice's many themed deodorants and shower gel, so a proper fragrance in this segment is really only for the older crowd of guys who want a "real cologne" but won't go upmarket to designer, while the younger guys with enough coin for the "good stuff" are really just going to buy that instead, and can you blame them? The drugstore perfume market has atrophied to impulse buys near the counters of discounters like Marshall's, TJ Maxx, and Ross, while the fragrance cases at actual drug stores are often covered in dust. The demographic for the kind of guy who'd want a product like Avon Öland (1970) doesn't exist anymore in the US, so after restructuring and exchanging hands, it only makes sense that even after 130+ years, the company would pack their bags for pastures new. No hard feelings, just survival in a brutal market.

If you've read this far, you might be asking what's next? Well, for as much as I've researched Avon, even I can't even answer that. Coty, Proctor & Gamble and Elizabeth Arden now thoroughly inhabit the spaces once occupied by Avon, Revlon, MEM, Fabergé, Shulton, Yardley, and Leeming. Yeah, Mary Kay and Amway still put-put alongside Avon LLC in the US too, but for how long? Avon abroad fights tooth and nail against other direct sales brands like Armand Dupree, Yves Rocher, or Oriflame. For the colognoisseur less concerned about status or perceived quality, or just curious about 20th century kitsch Americana, Avon has a treasure trove of unsung classics that have every bit as much cool factor as a vintage bottle of Hai Karate (1967), but for everyone else, it's definitely an acquired taste. You won't find many "unicorns" among the vast Avon archives (yet), or anything save maybe Wild Country that really shaped the trajectory of masculine perfume outside Avon's personal reality bubble, but that's not the point of collecting it.

If your concern is "GOAT" batch codes, whether the sandalwood in your fragrance is sourced from Mysore, or how much ambroxan and norlimbanol is present in your scent, let me stop you right now and say you've likely wasted your time reading seven chronological articles on the history of the world's oldest and largest discount perfume direct seller. Jeremy Fragrance will likely never have much good to say about Avon, and you won't see Roja Dove reminiscing about the brand in his many entertaining interviews. However, if quirky, fun, tongue-in-cheek, unexpected, and sometimes a little maddening sounds like your area of interest, then Avon is probably for you and I'm glad I could help prepare you for what you're up against before diving into a pile of bottles shaped like old cars and steamboats. Thanks for reading and never stop sniffing!

Updated 26th January 2019 at 01:05 AM by Zealot Crusader

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Door to Door Drugstore: Avon Products

Comments

  1. Birdboy48's Avatar
    Gee Whiz ! A really informative series !

    I doubt there's anywhere else someone could find knowledge like this, so thanks for taking the time and energy to share it with us.
  2. Zealot Crusader's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Birdboy48
    Gee Whiz ! A really informative series !

    I doubt there's anywhere else someone could find knowledge like this, so thanks for taking the time and energy to share it with us.
    You're welcome! It's just something that needed to be done IMO

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