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The Avon Opportunity - Not Just For Women!

Monday, March 21 2011

 Every other Wednesday, a shipment of lipstick, skin lotions and scented soaps arrives on the doorstep of a Riverview home.  Inside, the neighborhood Avon representative gets busy filling orders and checking inventory.  It's reminiscent of the old days, when television commercials carried the familiar phrase "Ding-dong, Avon calling" and a well-coiffed saleswoman would spread her bag of goodies on a fellow homemaker's couch.

But the Avon lady sorting these goods is anything but traditional.  She's a man.

"It is different," admits Brian Kalish, 38, an Air Force veteran who by day is a civilian contractor at MacDill Air Force Base.  Kalish got into the business when he asked his wife, Angie, where she bought the cologne she gave him for Christmas.

"She said, 'Actually, I got it from Avon,' " Kalish recalled. "I said, 'The heck you did.' "  At the same time, she was unhappy with her own Avon lady.  Kalish thumbed through a catalog and thought maybe he could do just as good a job of selling the products as anyone. And once his wife dared him, it was a done deal.

Kalish has about 165 customers and a Web site. Some of his most loyal are the military officers he works with at MacDill, who buy the company's famous Skin So Soft lotion to use as bug repellent.  Sometimes they approach Kalish on the sly and whisper their request.

"They say it so quietly, like it's a secret," he said.

Avon doesn't track its number of male representatives, company spokeswoman Lindsay Blaker said. "We do know that more and more men are buying Avon products," she said.  The company has in recent years boosted efforts to market products geared toward men. Avon has endorsement deals with baseball player Derek Jeter and actor Patrick Dempsey.

Even Avon's own Web site touts itself as "The company for women."

Kalish thinks being a man works to his advantage.  "Maybe that's my edge," he said.  About a third of Kalish's customers are men, he said.

Angie Kalish said her husband has worked as a telephone salesman and once sold televisions at Sears.  "He can pretty much sell anything," she said. "He's very social and very outgoing."

And what was her reaction when he decided to sell Avon?  "I thought well, you know, it'll be nice to have a discount."

  • Article courtesy of the St. Petersburg Times and written by Jan Wesner.

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