The fact is that Avon was an American phenomenon and a unique one when it started out. We are used to seeing women selling Avon, but the first Avon Lady was actually a man! It was a young man from upstate New York named David McConnell age 28. This young man actually launched Avon Calling in 1886, offering cosmetics in the comfort of people’s homes. However, perfumes and hand creams were not his initial merchandise. At 16, McConnell began selling books door-to door. Unfortunately, this was not received well by clients and he began offering free products as an advertising gimmick. In this way he was able to get his pitch across. He thought that a complimentary vial of perfume would be ideal. Avon is sold in over 100 countries around the world!
The young man was very creative and he blended the original rose scent himself with the help of a local pharmacist. McConnell got lucky and fate stepped in and women loved his perfume! So he abandoned the book business and organized the New York based California Perfume Company which he named to honour his friend and investor from California. The door to door approach seemed to be tailor made for selling cosmetics, especially in rural areas. In these areas women who were mostly homemakers had poor or no access to the better stores. The business grew and the first female Avon Lady appeared. Her name was P.F.E. Albee a widow from Winchester, New Hampshire. She began her door to door career selling Avon’s Little Dot Perfume Set which was very popular! The set contained five fragrances: Violet, White Rose, Heliotrope, Lily- of –the- Valley and Hyacinth.
When business grew she started to recruit other women to sell the companies perfume door to door. The company was renamed Avon because the New York State town in which David McConnell lived Suffern on the Ramapo reminded him of Shakespeare’s Stratford-on-Avon! The young man loved William Shakespeare who hailed from his hometown. By the year 1887, McConnell had twelve women selling a line of eighteen fragrances! The numbers just kept on growing and growing. In 1939, the company name changed to Avon Products Inc. Even though the market has been flooded with different perfumes with higher prices over the years, Avon has remained number one. In fact, Avon ranks first in sales nationwide with Avon ladies still treading the streets and ringing doorbells from coast to coast!