There were some revealing stories to be told this week by persons, mostly women, involved in the marketing of Avon products here in Guyana following the announcement by the American company that it was closing its distribution operations in sixteen Caribbean countries, including Guyana.
Most revealing, perhaps, was the realization that a single business enterprise could leave such a huge footprint on so many economies around the world and that the decisions made in that company’s boardroom could alter individual and family lives, often irreparably so. That is how it has been with Avon.
Over time, the company had become a household name far beyond the shores of the United States and here in Guyana the name Avon—whatever other brands might have come along subsequently—had become inextricably linked with local cosmetics demand. What Avon had also done was to exploit the global popularity of its brand to make a powerful entry into other areas of beauty and fashion-related goods. Simultaneously, the company not only created new markets and expanded consumer demand across the globe but also, through its expansive distribution regime, provided millions of jobs ranging from large and lucrative distributorships that made good money for those at the top of the pile to more modest vending opportunities for women here in Guyana and in another 100 or so countries across the globe.
As Stabroek Business was able to determine in the wake of the closure of Avon’s operations here earlier this week, the company’s impact in Guyana reposed not only in the popularity of the goods that it offered but also in the impact that it had on jobs and on income-earning opportunities.
So that now that Avon has closed its operations in Guyana (and the rest of the region) a so-far unknown number of agents and vendors are left to wonder where to turn to next. We learnt from one vendor that while the closure of the Avon operations here has dealt a serious blow to perhaps thousands of small businesses across the country, what the experience of ‘working with Avon’ has done is to allow those who have had the experience to develop a measure of entrepreneurial skills that can be directed into other (perhaps indigenous) areas now that the Avon option no longer exists. That too is not without its challenges since opportunities will have to be sought, capital raised, demand generated and marketing structures set up.
What the closure of the Avon operations has done here in Guyana is to put the economy on notice that significant numbers of individuals and families have had their sources of income cut off, so that it has now become necessary to give more thought to such job-creation initiatives as can be undertaken to fill the gap that has been created particularly since the loss of the Avon option will almost certainly impact on many amongst the most vulnerable here in Guyana. Perhaps this might be the opportune moment for our own recently set up state-run small business structure to raise its game.