The WTO has recently predicted that the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic will be disproportionately felt by women, with a ‘pink collar recession’ threatening to roll back the gender equality gains of recent decades. In the UK, there are indications that women are bearing the brunt of redundancies, mothers are more likely than fathers to have been furloughed, and women have done the greater share of domestic and caring work during lockdown.
As a result of these pressures, women are exploring new, flexible and digital earning opportunities. At Avon, we have been creating opportunities since 1886, and we believe that business has a responsibility to support women through these difficult times.
Avon was founded, over 130 years ago, on the very modern premise of people setting up their own businesses and selling through their social networks. All too often women’s potential is stifled by economic, social and political barriers and gender discrimination. The pandemic threatens to entrench these barriers further still. Avon is committed to creating opportunities to earn and learn, believing that advancing women’s flexible work options and earning potential gives them the opportunity to lead a safe, healthy and empowered life. Furthermore, when one woman’s life improves, there is a ripple effect, benefiting her family, her community and the wider world we all live in. A better world for women is a better world for all.
Like many companies, over the last few months Avon has looked for ways to support our communities through a period of unprecedented turmoil.
Avon has five million Representatives globally: beauty business owners and advisors who sell products through their social networks and through digital tools, working flexibly around a full-time job or other life commitments. Some scale this up to a full-time business, and recruit and train teams of others.
To support all its UK Representatives during this crisis, Avon has reduced the threshold to earn, from £90 to £1 of sales. This means that they can earn 20% on their sales of £1 and over, providing an income boost which particularly benefits those earning the least.
Online Support and Training
Even in normal times, Avon utilises online sales and training platforms that enable our Representatives to develop their skills and to gain control over when and where they work. Our online sales platforms have been invaluable in helping our Representatives maintain their income over the period of lockdown – or even to increase it. During the crisis, we have provided video workshops on building an online business and advise on how to better leverage social media.
This approach has built resilience both for our Representatives and for Avon as whole. For example, Nadine Flint, 55, an Avon Rep and Sales Leader from Tibshelf in Derbyshire, moved her business online and has seen personal sales grow 1150% from £200 per campaign to £2,500 since lockdown measures were announced. Overall, Avon’s online sales are increasing and have shown a spike during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Widening Opportunity for More
In addition to supporting our existing Representatives, we have welcomed many more since the pandemic started. Avon’s social selling platform has already seen double¹ the number of new people signing up across the UK since lockdown began. Sian Erith from Norfolk kickstarted her Avon business during lockdown as restrictions forced her to take a break from a career in hairdressing. Using social media to drive online sales, at a time when door to door sales were not possible, Sian earned £600 in her first three weeks.
Relationships that Support Communities
At Avon, we are proud that our flexible business model is supporting women’s financial resilience during these difficult times. We also celebrate the strong relationships that our Representatives build with their customers. During the lockdown, our Representatives have adapted their businesses to continue to connect with and deliver to their customers and many have supported vulnerable people in practical ways.
Angela Cretu, Avon CEO has highlighted the important work that Avon Representatives are doing to make a difference to their local communities. “Avon Reps play a crucial role within their communities. Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, we’ve seen our five million Representatives pivot their businesses to provide support to the most vulnerable by picking up prescriptions and shopping, to checking in on neighbours. The beauty of Avon is that our Representatives are able to develop a meaningful relationship with their customers which is far more than skin deep.”
Avon’s experience shows that putting women’s economic participation at the very heart of business builds resilience not only for individual women, but for society as a whole. As we look to an uncertain future for women, it is essential that business takes up this mission. After all, a better world for women, is a better world for everyone.
 Avon UK has seen a 114% increase (YOY) in new Representatives signing up to the earning opportunity in the period 23 March – 7 June 2020
You can hear more about Avon’s commitment to supporting the wellbeing and livelihoods of women in a Spotlight Podcast with Natalie Deacon, recorded in April 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. In the discussion, Natalie also highlighted Avon’s work to help end domestic violence, which has increased significantly during the crisis. Avon worked with Business Fights Poverty on a toolkit to help employers respond to this increased threat.
The author would like to acknowledge the support of Annabel Beales at Business Fights Poverty in the preparation of this article.