Business reporters all across America area breaking out their best makeup-related puns because Avon is in trouble.
Avon has been ailing for years; back in 2012, Fortune published a great whopping piece outlining the troubles that lead to former CEO Andrea Jung’s ouster. The direct-selling giant is facing a great many challenges, from losing sales reps to perception of a lower-quality product in the era of the ubiquitous Sephora. Without getting too far into the weeds, this quote sums up the situation pretty well:
The CEO and chairman of Avon Products was fielding questions during the company’s third-quarter earnings call from a pack of frustrated analysts — and they weren’t holding back. The company had surprised the Street, missing analysts’ estimates, and reporting that it would no longer hit its revenue-growth and operating-margin targets for 2011. A day before the October 2011 call, the Securities and Exchange Commission had subpoenaed Avon for information related to whether the company had improperly shared information with analysts — on top of an SEC inquiry into allegations of bribery by employees in China and elsewhere. On the call Citigroup’s Wendy Nicholson said, “It strikes me that you guys are so totally screwed up in so many ways, the change has to be radical.”
Jung was replaced as CEO by Sherilyn McCoy, but in the last three years her sailing hasn’t been much smoother. The latest flurry of news coverage started Monday when, as the Wall Street Journal reports, Avon bumped an upcoming investor meeting from May to the vastly more vague “this fall.” Observers had expected the company to introduce new turnaround plans. Wall Street has been waiting quite a while on that turnaround, and they’re getting impatient:
[McCoy] was recruited three years ago from Johnson & Johnson to lead a turnaround. She overhauled the top management team and brought an end to a multiyear bribery probe that drained cash and management time. But so far, she has struggled to make progress correcting years of dismal results and shrinking representative ranks at the beauty company.
Avon’s stock, which is down about 45% in the past 12 months, was removed from the S&P 500 last month. The company declined to comment.
And now, the Journal says that “people familiar with the matter” tell them the company is laying all its options out on the table and considering options such as a sale of the entire business or perhaps one of its regional units. The Journal adds:
Analysts have long wondered why Avon doesn’t shed the North America business to focus on its stronger markets in Latin America and elsewhere. Though 86% of the company’s sales come from outside North America, Avon has maintained strong emotional ties to the region and its hundreds of thousands of sales representatives. On a conference call in February, Ms. McCoy pledged that Avon’s North America unit was on track for profitability this year and described the U.S. as “important for us.”
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