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

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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, leading to new generations of potential customers buying only briefly out of morbid curiousity or seeing them as irrelevant. 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, while entire parts of the world that aren't war-stricken are finally developing to levels they should have been at 50 years ago, and that's where the demand for Avon's "value-conscious luxury" is highest, unsurprisingly. 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, including door-to-door direct sales, mid-tier dining chains, shopping malls, and fast food.

In the eyes ot many Westerners, designer fragrances sit where drugstore companies used to 40 years ago, and ultra-expensive niche perfumers with their limited-edition products sit 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 still ostensibly operating are selling their wares. The new British landlords of Avon now focus the majority of their 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 products and stocking the classics that remain in production for it's legacy market, but that's it.

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 know about Avon, 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? For the male fragrance collector 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, but for everyone else, it's definitely an acquired taste. You won't find any unicorns among the vast Avon archives (yet), or anything save maybe Wild Country that really shaped the trajectory of masculine perfume, but that's not the point of collecting it.

If your concern is batch codes, whether the sandalwood in your fragrance is sourced from Mysore, or how much ambroxen and norlimbanol is present in your scent, let me stop you right now and say you've wasted your time reading seven entries on the history of the worlds oldest and largest discount perfume direct seller. No refunds, no returns, and I'm sure rocking your bottle of Roja Dove like a teddy bear while you sleep might help you cope, because I can't. 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 educate you about what you're up against before diving in. Thanks for reading and never stop sniffing!

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