The economic climate might have been gloomy in the UAE last year but partying was still in style. At least, it was for Avon. The Avon party - where Avon Ladies invite friends over to snack and buy the company's cosmetics - is becoming more popular in the Emirates, said Premi Oommen, the national sales manager for Avon Cosmetics, part of the Al Hathboor Group.
And the number of Avon members in the Emirates is growing, up 14 per cent from 3,500 members at the start of last year to 4,000 members this year, Ms Oommen said. Claire Roddie, a 22-year-old freelance make-up artist from Scotland, signed up to be a member just a month ago. Ms Roddie said she saw it as a fun way to supplement her income. "It's just good for me in between jobs to earn some extra money," she said. "It's reasonably priced, and the make-up here is a lot more expensive than back in Scotland. And Avon, they are good-quality products and they do last."
Avon, the world's largest direct-selling company, which has products including make-up, perfume and jewellery, had global revenues of US$10.4 billion (Dh38.2bn) last year. This was down 3 per cent from 2008. But in western Europe, the Middle East and Africa, revenues fell 5 per cent to $1.3bn. Although the Avon brand is not present in the shopping malls, it has been in the UAE for more than 20 years. Avon entered the country in 1983 with just 30 staff and now it has about 4,000 members covering 32 nationalities.
Most members are Filipino, with the second-largest group being from the Indian subcontinent, said Ms Oommen. About 15 men are members as well, she added. But last year, as the economic downturn triggered layoffs in the UAE's property and financial industries, Avon saw an increase in job applicants, she said. Although Avon is constantly recruiting, the number of applicants had returned to a "normal" level this year, Ms Oommen said.
Avon in the UAE grew 4 per cent last year, Ms Oommen added. Cosmetics are "an everyday need for women and for a family. It's not just women's products". And sales of Avon continue to be steady. "In Avon, we sell a lipstick every second and obviously the quality of our products is similar to any big, reputed brands," Ms Oommen said. "So they can get a lipstick at a lower price because we are not retailers. We don't have to think about expenses and shops."