Avon seller worried for customers

A long-serving Dunedin Avon representative is stunned the company is leaving New Zealand, and says she is worried some of her elderly customers could be left isolated.

Avon, which has more than six million independent sales reps worldwide, has announced it will close operations in Australia and New Zealand by the end of the year.

 

Avon rep Coleen Williamson has sold products for the company for 39 years, and is shocked Avon is leaving New Zealand. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Avon rep Coleen Williamson has sold products for the company for 39 years, and is shocked Avon is leaving New Zealand. Photo: Peter McIntosh

Northeast Valley resident Coleen Williamson said she had been ''in the field'' as a sales rep for the cosmetics giant since 1979.

She had about 50 regular customers, some of them housebound.

''[They] are absolutely devastated,'' she said.

''A lot of my customers are elderly and they really enjoyed my company. They are so, so sad.''

Already customers were trying to stock up on Avon products, she said.

Avon's decision last month to leave Australia and New Zealand came as a surprise, Mrs Williamson said.

''I think most of us reps feel like stunned mullets, really.''

Mrs Williamson said she thought there were 50 or 60 reps in Dunedin.

Across New Zealand and Australia 220 staff and more than 21,400 representatives are estimated to be affected.

Avon lower South Island district manager Jan Shaw said she was unable to comment.

Mrs Williamson, now in her 70s, said she began working for the company after her Canadian penpal told her about Avon.

She sold beauty products, jewellery and clothes.

''It's been half my life,'' Mrs Williamson said. ''I could write a book.''

She got into various ''predicaments'' as an Avon rep in Dunedin, which included once being attacked by a ram.

Over two decades she sold enough products to receive 22 collectable Mrs Albee dolls from an Avon rewards programme.

Attempts to contact Avon's head office in New Zealand yesterday were unsuccessful.

-By Elena McPhee

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