Constant rewards

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Constant rewards

As Avon’s general manager for Western Europe, Andrea Slater is a champion of female empowerment. Therefore her philosophy for the brand goes more than skin deep – it’s about helping women, whoever they are and wherever they may be, feel good about themselves and giving them confidence. Lesley Neil finds out more

Avon has come a long way since it was founded in 1886. How would you describe the company today and why do you think it has endured?

Avon has evolved from being a perfume-only, door-to-door sales business to one of the beauty industry’s biggest players, and I couldn’t be more proud to be part of a company with Avon’s heritage. It has stood the test of time, and what has remained constant is its commitment to women and women’s empowerment – it truly is “The Company for Women”. You couldn’t describe it any better than that.

Avon has been empowering women since 1886 by offering them a unique earnings opportunity, through what is arguably the original social network – direct selling. Direct selling at Avon is about independent representatives constantly connecting to and building personal relationships with new customers as well as other representatives. Many friendships have developed over decisions about the perfect lipstick shade.

Avon creates fantastic quality products that are truly innovative in the beauty space – but that’s not all. We are committed to supporting women’s causes, including breast cancer and domestic violence. This is an integral part of our business and, over the years, we have raised more than £18 million in the UK alone, which is a testament to all of our customers, staff and independent representatives.

Avon was voted Best Health & Beauty Retailer in Verdict’s 2015 customer satisfaction awards. What does this award mean to you, and why do you think customers placed Avon ahead of the competition?

This is such a big win for the brand – I was thrilled. The Verdict awards are based on a consumer survey of 12,000 people rating retailers they have shopped at over the past year, and we pipped Amazon and Boots to the post. For us, this is a clear indication that for customers, nothing can beat the service provided by a happy and knowledgeable representative who gives them a personal shopping experience right in their own home.

Ours is a unique sales model which has proven itself over the years, but one that has also evolved with the times, embracing technology, while retaining our iconic brochures. We produce 18 a year and our customers love the brochure experience. It’s exciting to see our representatives and our sales model receive this kind of recognition and beat our heavyweight rivals.

How many Avon representatives are there around the world?

Avon is one of the world’s largest direct-selling companies, with six million active independent Avon representatives across the world.

How do you work to ensure that the products you offer are fresh and interesting to your customers?

We are so fortunate to have a direct line to our customers via our independent representatives. They give us feedback and we listen. Avon has a proven history of delivering first-to-market beauty technologies, making the company a perennial game-changer.

Time and again, Avon and its global team of scientists have led the industry in giving consumers breakthrough products that marry beauty and innovation. Light-adjusting make-up, more durable mascara, revolutionary anti-ageing skincare products … the list goes on and on. Simply put, Avon offers women products that help them look and feel their best.

Who is the Avon target customer?

Avon has something for everyone, but we find that our core customer is female. Beyond our innovative beauty offering, we also sell a huge selection of fashion and home items which cater to all ages and budgets, including men and children.

How do you source your beauty products, and where are they made?

The heart of Avon’s innovation is our Global R&D Center in upstate New York. The state-of-the-art, 225,000sq ft facility is where hundreds of scientists and technicians focus on creating products that are some of the most advanced in the world. These creators of beauty take a multi-disciplined approach in developing fragrances, make-up, skincare and hair care products that are high-tech, high quality and highly appealing to consumers around the world. We have manufacturing sites all over the world.

Until recently, Avon owned the Liz Earle skincare brand. Why did the company decide to sell this to Walgreens Boots Alliance?

Avon acquired Liz Earle in March 2010 as we looked to complement our own skincare portfolio. While we have benefited from the growth of the Liz Earle business, this sale is a strategic decision for us as Liz Earle now looks to enter its next phase of growth. Liz Earle is the perfect fit for Walgreens Boots Alliance, where it already has a strong presence in its retail stores.

Avon’s latest financial results show beauty sales down 17 per cent in the second quarter of 2015. What’s your view on this?

On the financial side, I’d have to refer back to comments made by Sheri McCoy, chief executive officer of Avon Products, Inc: “Our overall second quarter performance was in line with our expectations in an environment of extraordinary currency pressure. Market by market, our local teams are operating effectively as they address consumer demands, improve representative engagement and manage costs. Given that we anticipate the challenging environment to continue, we have taken steps to improve our financial flexibility.”

In your 20-plus years at Avon, what have been your biggest achievements?

Taking on a role in UK commercial marketing was very exciting, but also a huge remit, where I had my own buying and digital team. We were trying out lots of innovative new approaches and at the time we were the first to be doing a lot of things. Of course, moving over to the States with my family to take on the CEO of North America role was also a high point, but really, I am hoping my best moments are still to come.

Looking to the future, how do you see the brand evolving?

Avon will continue to provide customers with high-quality, yet affordable products, made available to them by our fantastic independent representatives and via the Avon online shop as well. I can see us embracing new technology to continue to push sales boundaries, working hand in hand with our representatives.

Avon will also continue to raise money to support charities we believe in – eradicating breast cancer and supporting those who suffer from domestic violence. Women’s causes are such an important part of what we do here at Avon – it’s in our DNA. It’s one of our purposes to put good back into the world and we will continue to raise money and awareness in this way.

What’s the best thing about being general manager of Avon Western Europe?

I’m so fortunate to be in a job where I feel rewarded constantly. I meet and speak with women daily who tell me how Avon has empowered them to better their lives. Avon gives women so many opportunities. With the representative opportunity, they can gain confidence getting back into work and earn money or are touched by Avon’s generosity with the many that have benefited from the funds we raise for women’s causes. It’s truly touching to see how the company does so much more than offer a great shade of lipstick.

As a leader, I really enjoy seeing people grow and develop. Many of the people I work with as peers may have worked for me at one point and it’s incredibly rewarding to know that I’ve played a part in their development. I also get a huge amount of satisfaction from creating high-performing teams.

And are there any downsides to your job?

I have been fortunate to meet lots of people across so many countries. However, this means I do miss my family terribly when I travel. My husband Jonathan and I made the decision years ago that he would be a stay-at-home father to our two sons to give me the opportunity to continue to develop in my chosen role. This decision works for us and it’s fantastic that the children have a constant in their father.

Women’s causes are such an important part of what we do here at Avon – it’s in our DNA. It’s one of our purposes to put good back into the world and we will continue to raise money and awareness in this way

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