Avon Justine
  • Avon Justine, the company that sells makeup and accessories under both those names, is aggressively recruiting new "independent contractors".
  • For a startup cost of around R1,600 it offers the possibility of "unlimited earnings" for its reps.
  • A new delivery system is now in place in parts of Johannesburg, and due for national rollout soon.
  • For more stories go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage.

Direct-selling company Avon Justine, which offers a range of beauty and related products under both those names separately, is aggressively recruiting new "independent contractors" from anywhere in South Africa.

Those sales reps have the chance of "unlimited earnings", the company says – just as long as they have either a decent credit record or around R1,600 to start off with.

Avon traces its history back to 1886, with the founding of a perfume company in California, though it only started trading under the name in 1946. In 1995 it bought South African cosmetics brand Justine as it rapidly expanded into the developing world.

This month the South African company launched what it characterised as an empowerment opportunity for women, with the promise that those women can learn digital skills and entrepreneurship – while selling its products.

We checked out the sign-up process to become an Avon/Justine salesperson. Here's what we found.

The signup process is painless, though it takes a little longer than advertised.

Avon Justine

Although Avon and Justine operate separate websites to recruit new sales consultants, both use the same chatbot to start the signup process, and you can opt in to both product lines, though that increases the mandatory startup costs.

The system claims it takes 15 minutes to answer simple questions, but it is actually under five minutes, as long as you have a photo of your ID or passport ready to begin with.

However, after providing your home address, the chatbot promises a call from Avon Justine to finalise everything within 48 hours. It actually took a little under five days for our call to come.

The commission structure is a little complicated – but really does offer up to 30% on some products, some of the time.

Justine discount structure

The "discounts" – or commission on offer for salespeople, start at 10% for watches, makeup brushes, and other Justine product categories. They max out at 25% for Avon-branded perfume, skin products.

Sell enough in one month (at the moment R7,500 in Avon products), though, and those discounts can be bumped up to 30% in the next month. The company also runs occasional time-limited specials that offer slightly higher commission levels on some product lines, though never more than 30%.

There are hidden costs, but they are not significant.

Avon brochures

Avon Justine does not charge any ongoing monthly fees – but it is mandatory to buy two printed brochures every month at a cost of R11.80 for each brand, so R23.60 a month if you are signed up for both Justine and Avon sales.

Each order a representative places also attracts a R23 administration fee, which is waived for orders above R2,500.

The company also charges a R85 "joining fee", which it says is added on to the first order placed.

Having at least R250 cash upfront will help, but a good credit record will buy you 21 days to pay.

Both brands offer "pay as you go" accounts: the rep asks customers for upfront payment, and hands that money over to Avon Justine before the goods are shipped.

For those who have a good credit record, the company offers a 21-day payment window on an individual credit limit.

But the company also has a hybrid option for those who can't convince customers to pay upfront, and don't have the necessary credit record. For a R250 deposit, Avon Justine will extend R1,000 worth of credit, then double that limit after three months of on-time payments.

Signing up for both brands will cost you just shy of R1,600.

The Avon and Justine brochures say your first order needs to be a minimum of R550, so R1,100 in total for both, before those extra costs.

However, when the company called us to complete the signup process, we learnt that it is "compulsory for first-time representatives to take a value pack", which would bring the total cost to R1,590.

There is only one way to check out the quality of the goods you'll get in those value packs: find an existing representative of the company and talk them out of samples.

Unopened products, the company tells us, can be returned for a full refund.

Avon Justine salespeople can now sell entirely online – within limits.

Justine online

The Avon Justine model has always been one of face-to-face interaction, where sales reps show off products, place orders on behalf of clients, receive the delivery from the company, and hand those goods over to the end customers.

Now, though, it offers online ordering – via special digital storefronts for each representative – plus direct delivery to the end user. In theory that means its sales consultants can find buyers via channels such as WhatsApp or Twitter, direct the buyers to the right website, and have no further interaction on that order.

Direct delivery is currently available only in parts of Johannesburg, the company told Business Insider South Africa, "but will roll out nationally soon".

It costs R105 extra for express delivery in no more than two days, or R68 for standard delivery that can take up to five days. 

There is one catch: sales representatives sign up to an agreement where they must promise that any sales material they create, including online, will comply with the company's policies.

You can make money - as long as you can sell.

The representative agreement for new beauty consults has a stark warning for those recruited into the salesforce: "Do not be misled by claims that high earnings are easily achieved."

Do you sell Avon Justine products? We'd love to hear how that is working out for you. You can use this form to tell us all about it.

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