Customers of Avon across Europe will be able to buy fashionable coronavirus face masks alongside their lipstick and hand cream as the global beauty giant looks to adapt its business to a new socially distanced world.
The group’s global chief executive Angela Cretu, who took the post in January, revealed the group is working on plans to launch Avon face masks across a number of European countries in response to customer demand.
Speaking to the PA news agency, she said fashion statement face masks are expected to be become the “must-have accessory” as the world emerges from lockdown to a new socially distanced way of living.
The group, which employs five million representatives around the world, is hoping to have its first face masks available for order from June 1, with plans for a larger collection later in the year.
Avon aims to launch across several European countries initially, with the UK expected to follow at a later date.
Some fashion experts believe face masks could overtake the trainer as the best-selling accessory in the mass market, but it is a line that firms will need to tread carefully.
Online fashion firm Boohoo was forced to swiftly withdraw its £5 fabric masks with the slogans “Eat, sleep, isolate, repeat” and “If you can read this, you’re too close” after suffering widespread backlash.
Ms Cretu said Avon was being mindful of the strict regulations and that first and foremost a mask should be functional, but added: “On top of this we are looking at ways to make them beautiful.”
The face masks form part of Avon’s global response to the Covid-19 pandemic, alongside switching its manufacturing lines to prioritise essential hygiene products for healthcare and frontline workers, including moisturising hand gel, as well as its Isolated Not Alone campaign to raise awareness of domestic violence in the crisis.
Ms Cretu – who heads the business outside Latin America and oversees the brand globally – said the group has had to transform its business in a matter of weeks as it comes to terms with being a “high-touch company in a no-touch environment”.
She said: “We’ve been through two world wars… but coronavirus for all of us is an unprecedented situation.”
The pandemic has increased the pace of its shift online, according to Ms Cretu, with the group helping its global army of representatives use technology in place of the traditional door-to-door sales tactics that saw “Avon Calling” become a global catchphrase in the 1960s.
The group has been giving reps the tools to operate over the internet or phone, while its supply chain stepped in to deliver products to customers amid lockdown restrictions.
On the shift online, Ms Cretu said: “In the past two months, we’ve achieved more than we have in the past decade.”
Despite the challenges of selling beauty products in the middle of a global crisis, she said she felt a duty to “keep our business open, because we have a five million-strong network of women around the world that depend on their income”.
She admitted striking the balance between protecting representatives, helping serve communities and maintaining financial stability has been the biggest challenge.
“We made a very clear commitment that none of our employees are going to lose their jobs – keeping this pledge and still ensuring we are profitable for our shareholders is really what keeps me awake at night.”