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Archive for Thursday, September 13, 2001

Making up lost ground: Avon sees youth as its next calling

September 13, 2001

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— Sixteen-year-old Nicolle Hudson and her friends love Avon makeup.

At school, they look over the brochures, picking out lipstick, eyeliner and mascara, which is just in their price range about $4 to $8 each. Hudson, of Waldorf, Md., even finds her favorite perfume, Millennia, through Avon.

"When I was little, I always thought it was something for old women and stuff," Hudson said of Avon products. "Now the books are focused on teen-agers and younger women. Their fragrances, they don't smell like something my 70-year-old grandma would wear."

Avon Products Inc. has been trying to shed the vestiges of its 1950s "Ding-dong, Avon calling" image. The company features younger women in its ads and goes beyond knickknacks in its gift selection.

But last month the company announced a more extreme rejuvenation plan: to develop, by 2003, cosmetics, skin-care products and possibly jewelry for teen-age girls.

And not only that: Avon thinks it can persuade young girls to sell the makeup and fragrances to one another, like Little Avon Ladies.

Joseph Faranda, group vice president of strategy and new business for Avon, acknowledges that the company has little experience with the truly younger crowd.

Nonetheless, "we know when you talk to teens and ask them who they like to buy from, it's their friends," he said. "Word of mouth is extremely important. We think we can offer them an earnings opportunity that is more flexible."

Former Glamour magazine publisher Deborah I. Fine will head the newly created Teen Business division.

Avon's news didn't surprise Michael Wood, vice president of Teenage Research Unlimited, a Northbrook, Ill., market research firm that studies teen habits.

Wood said he thinks Avon could succeed with teens if it can create products that seem fashionable and cool. He particularly likes Avon's idea of getting teens to sell products to one another because they are heavily influenced by their peers in making purchasing decisions.

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