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LIFE BEYOND COSMETICS FOR AVON NEW VENTURES BRING DIRECT SALES GIANT INTO VITAMINS, APPAREL

By Published on .

Avon Products is targeting high-profile product categories and joint ventures with national brand names to push beyond its core beauty business.

On March 31, the $4 billion direct sales company will announce a line of vitamins and nutritional supplements under the Avon Life name, to be sold by its more than 400,000 sales representatives. Avon Life will be marketed in the company's core sales brochures carried by the reps.

Avon also has just taken national a separate U.S. catalog distributed by representatives. Called Avon Style, it includes Avon-branded intimate apparel as well as Warnaco brand-name underwear and sleepwear, featuring the Warner's, Fruit of the Loom and Scaasi labels.

"There will be more joint ventures," said Avon Chairman Jim Preston. "We are in discussions with world class players who would love to have some of their products put through our distribution system. And we will do more to leverage the power of that distribution system with non-Avon brands that are well-known brands in terms of their own industries."

Other examples of Avon's efforts to develop brand names beyond its own include last year's introduction of an Elizabeth Taylor costume jewelry line and a Josie Natori designer fragrance.

"These are things that you would never have seen us do years ago," Mr. Preston said.

The nationally recognized Warnaco brands, also sold in retail stores, are marketed through an Avon/Warnaco joint venture that Avon tested last fall in the fledgling Avon Style catalog. Test sales wound up 20% ahead of projections, and Avon expects sales to be even stronger with Style's national launch.

The company wouldn't disclose intimate apparel sales projections. But Andrea Jung, president of Avon's North American product marketing group, said it's looking to develop the category into a better than $300 million business.

The catalog will also expand into children's sleepwear and women's casual clothes.

With all this activity, Avon hasn't lost sight of cosmetics. It will continue to introduce new products under the Avon name. Anew, Avon's alpha hydroxy acid women's skincare treatment that has surpassed $100 million in sales, is entering the men's category with Anew Performance for men, a regimen built around the shaving ritual.

Anew will be the focus of Avon's $15 million-plus ad effort this year via FCB/Leber Katz Partners, New York.

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