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Avon's calling for more sales reps

Promotion from Avon website.

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: As good a game as the Super Bowl was this year, as usual it was the ads that gave us a peek into American culture. This year they were all about coping with recession, as in this one.

Avon was calling -- not for customers but for sales reps.

AVON COMMERCIAL: I can't get fired. I can't get laid off. It's my business.

The company announced higher fourth-quarter profits today, though a bit less than expected. Which got us wondering whether a recession is the right time to start a home-based business.

Marketplace's Janet Babin reports from North Carolina Public Radio.


JANET BABIN: One of the women in the Avon Super Bowl ad is actual Avon Lady Daryn Dezengotita. She says it's a great business, and not just because she can't get fired.

Daryn Dezengotita: There are two things women are never going to go without, and that would be moisturizer and lipstick.

Dezengotita admits the recession has made new customers harder to come by. But she says those who know her are buying more.

Dezengotita: I've seen an increase in my average order.

Avon communications VP Joe Billone says the number of reps grew last year by 7 percent to around 6 million.

Joe Billone: We made a decision about a year ago that we were going to step up our presence to let people know about the opportunity that Avon offers to run your own business.

It doesn't cost Avon anything to add reps. Even so, the company admits 2009 will be a challenging year. In this global recession, customers have less spending money.

But marketing strategist Susan Plonka says home-based entrepreneurs may have an advantage over faceless mall stores.

Susan Plonka: Clients might be hesitant to go out to the malls, but if their friend will help them, customers might be more open to that.

Home-based businesses can also supplement a sagging savings account.

Kathy Weier started selling Mary Kay cosmetics four months ago. She wanted to earn money to go to her brother's wedding in Puerto Rico.

Kathy Weier: My first month that I was in I was able to buy my plane tickets.

That pink Mary Kay car can't be far off.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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