Ding dong, it's the Avon man calling ...

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The Independent Online
AFTER Piltdown Man, Stone Age Man and, more recently, New Man, the latest evolutionary branch of the male line is upon us: Avon Man.

He joins the Avon Lady, who, since she came to Britain from the United States in 1967, has become part of direct-selling folklore, calling with a case of cosmetics samples to demonstrate and sell over the coffee cups.

Unemployment and the search for an extra income are at last attracting men to the 150,000-strong, hitherto exclusively female ranks of the Avon representatives, who can earn as much as pounds 300 over three weeks by direct- selling lipstick, make-up, nail varnish and other "smellies" to neighbours and friends.

The latest recruit, Adrian Painter, who spends his spare time touring the Fishponds area of Bristol knocking on doors, is not only a man, but extensively covered in colourful dragon tattoos. "I visit about 30 to 50 houses a week and I get a few comments - shock, horror... shouldn't I be a woman, that sort of thing," said Adrian, who also works as a chef.

Adrian has been collecting dragon tattoos on his body for the past nine years, but tries not to let them frighten his customers. "I collect them and I've got them on my arms, leg, back and ribs," he said. "I like them. I do say 'Avon calling' when I knock on the doors.

"A few people at work take the mickey, but now I'm taking orders from them. The usual orders are for lipstick, nail varnish and cosmetics, although I'm selling a lot of bubble bath at the moment."

Kathy Slater, Avon's regional manager in the Midlands, said: "We have all kinds of different people as representatives. Housewives are in the majority, but we do have some students, and we have a very small number of men. It is an increasing number and I think they are probably attracted by the current unemployment situation.

"If they can sell, of course, they can sell Avon products. They get 30 per cent commission. Earnings vary with how much work you put in. It is possible to earn pounds 200 or pounds 300 in one of our three-week campaigns."