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For more than a century, the Avon Products company has been known for the direct-selling approach it uses to merchandise its cosmetics and personal-care products. In short, Avon employs women—"Avon Ladies"—to demonstrate items to customers in the privacy of their own homes. Avon's vintage television commercials typically opened with the sound of a chiming doorbell followed by the phrase, "Avon calling."

Originally known as the California Perfume Company, the company was founded in 1886 by David McConnell (1858–1937), who later renamed it Avon to honor the birthplace of his favorite author, William Shakespeare (1564–1616). Avon's direct-selling method was pioneered by Mrs. P. F. E. Albee of Winchester, New Hampshire, who became the first "Avon Lady" soon after the company's founding. By 2001, Avon was the world's largest direct-selling company, employing 3.4 million sales representatives in 139 countries around the world (2 percent of whom are male), and with total sales revenues of $5.7 billion.

Avon suffered a decline in its fortunes in the 1970s and 1980s owing to changing lifestyles. Many women began working outside the home, the arena where most of its demonstrations and sales had traditionally taken place. Also during this period, many salespeople left Avon to pursue more lucrative career opportunities. In the 1990s, the company redesigned its focus and advertising, upgraded its product line, and trained its sales force to make presentations in workplace settings, where 50 percent of sales now take place. Avon also considerably expanded its presence outside of the United States, especially in Brazil and other South American countries, China, and eastern Europe. With nearly one third of its top executives being female, the Avon Company is considered one of the most "women-friendly" enterprises.

—Edward Moran

For More Information

Avon.com: The Company for Women.http://www.avon.com (accessed January 10, 2002).

Morris, Betsy. "If Women Ran the World, It Would Look a Lot Like Avon." Fortune (July 21, 1997).

Reynolds, Patricia. "Ding Dong! Avon Lady Is Still Calling." Minneapolis Star Tribune (September 9, 1996).

Zajac, Jennifer. "Avon Finally Glowing Thanks to Global Sales—and New Lip-Shtick." Money (September 1997).

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AvonAbadan, Abidjan, Amman, Antoine, Arne, Aswan, Avon, Azerbaijan, Baltistan, Baluchistan, Bantustan, barn, Bhutan, Dagestan, darn, dewan, Farne, guan, Hahn, Hanuman, Hindustan, Huascarán, Iban, Iran, Isfahan, Juan, Kazakhstan, khan, Koran, Kurdistan, Kurgan, Kyrgyzstan, macédoine, Mahon, maidan, Marne, Michoacán, Oman, Pakistan, pan, Pathan, Qumran, Rajasthan, Shan, Siân, Sichuan, skarn, soutane, Sudan, Tai'an, t'ai chi ch'uan, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Taklimakan, tarn, Tatarstan, Tehran, Tenochtitlán, Turkestan, Turkmenistan, tzigane, Uzbekistan, Vientiane, yarn, Yinchuan, yuan, Yucatán •Autobahn • Lindisfarne •Bildungsroman • Nisan • Khoisan •Afghanistan • bhagwan • Karajan

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Avon Name of four British rivers. The Bristol (Lower) Avon rises in the Cotswold Hills in Gloucestershire and flows s and then w through Bristol, entering the Severn estuary at Avonmouth. Length: 121km (75mi). The Warwickshire (Upper) Avon rises in Northamptonshire, and flows sw through Stratford-on-Avon to join the River Severn at Tewkesbury. Length: 155km (96mi). The Wiltshire (East) Avon rises near Devizes and flows s into the English Channel. Length: 77km (48mi). The Scottish Avon flows e into the Firth of Forth. Length: 29km (18mi).

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Avon Former county in sw England, created in 1974 from areas of Gloucestershire and Somerset. It was replaced in 1996 by the unitary authorities of Bath and North-East Somerset, Bristol, North-West Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

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Avon was a new county, formed under the Local Government Act of 1972. It was based upon Bristol, Bath, and Weston-super-Mare, but incorporated a slice of Gloucestershire, including Sodbury, Thornbury, and Marshfield, and a part of north Somerset, including Clevedon, Chew Magna, Radstock, Midsomer Norton, and Steep Holme. The name was taken from the river Avon, which runs through Bath and Bristol. There was considerable opposition to the proposal, particularly from Somerset. The county town was Bristol. Avon was abolished in 1996.

J. A. Cannon

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