- The Washington Times - Monday, October 1, 2007

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -

This Avon rep wears a hard hat and carries a pile of company catalogues to his day job on a construction site, encouraging the men to buy their ladies a little something.

Perfume and lingerie are his top sellers. Oh, and he won’t go a day without the women’s wrinkle cream.

Meet Bobby McKinney. Your local Avon man.

“Forget the product; forget it’s Avon. This is a very viable business,” says the 58-year-old Winter Haven man, who along with his wife made about $800,000 in sales last year and has about 170 sales reps under him.

He’s one of a growing number of male salesmen selling products from the multibillion-dollar beauty company. It’s also part of a strategic move by Avon to broaden its appeal.

Sales to men and an increasing number of products for them has helped Avon’s bottom line, with sales growing from about $6.2 billion in 2002 to $8.7 billion in 2006.

Yankees star Derek Jeter partnered with the company to create Driven, his own line of products which includes cleansers, cologne, aftershave and deodorant. His cologne is Avon’s best-selling men’s fragrance of all time, and the second best-selling fragrance overall.

Avon recently produced its first men’s catalog, which features a PROExtreme skin care line, boxer shorts and power tools. New recruiting brochures picture men and women.

“Anti-aging is very intriguing to [men],” said Regina Dinisio, public relations manager of Avon fragrance. “They want no-hassle products, but they want to see the real benefits.”

Industry experts say the men’s market is ripe, though still in it’s early stages.

“We have seen that men are more interested in pampering themselves and taking better care of themselves overall,” said Karen Grant, senior beauty industry analyst at market research company NPD Group Inc.

She’s seen an increase in sales in the men’s “beauty” market, along with a host of new products since 2003.

U.S. sales of men’s skin care products totaled $68.9 million in 2006, up from $45.8 million in 2000. In comparison, women’s skin care products sold about $2.1 billion in 2006 and $1.7 billion in 2000, according to NPD.

Fewer than 13,000 of Avon’s 650,000 representatives in the U.S. are male, the company said, though that figure is rough because sex is not a check-box required of applicants. In comparison, competitor Mary Kay says 5,738 of its 700,000 sales reps are men.

Mr. McKinney entered the Avon world three years ago when he realized his wife, Joy, a 20-year Avon veteran, was doing six-figures a year in sales. With some experience in network marketing already, Mr. McKinney started teaching sales courses to new reps, passing out brochures and filling orders. Today, about 80 percent of his clients are men.

Jovial and stocky with a blond goatee, Mr. McKinney is a Marine Corps vet who says he twice took shrapnel hits in Vietnam and wrestled professionally under the name “Cowboy Bobby Steel.” He’s no David Beckham-styled metrosexual.

Neither is Sal D’Amico, a corrections lieutenant in Levittown, Pa., who finds a way to work Avon into every conversation — at the gym between bicep curls, at his child’s soccer games, standing in line at the bank.

Sure he gets a little rousing from his fellow officers, but he shrugs it off.

“A lot of those guys that were willing to mock Avon ended up buying Avon in the future from me,” said the 34-year-old Mr. D’Amico.

At first, he just helped his wife, Katrina, stick labels on her brochures. Then after he joined her four years ago, their sales figures doubled. Now the parents of two have turned their garage into an Avon office and make between $30,000 and $50,000 a year.

The McKinneys credit the boom in men’s business to the baby boomers who worry about wrinkles and are experimenting with anti-aging products.

Women love the Avon man, too. He coos over their babies and isn’t afraid to talk makeup. His sex is irrelevant, said longtime McKinney customer Rhonda Bryant.

“Not in today’s world,” she said. “Men and women do everything.”

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