Lipstick and life insurance are not natural marketing bedfellows, but Avon UK believes they could be a brand makeover made in heaven.

The beauty products company, which famously employs 'Avon ladies' to sell directly to customers in their own homes, is planning an expansion into financial services.

To this end president Jerry McDonald says the firm is calling up an an extra 20,000 recuits to the Avon army over the next five years, bringing the total to 280,000. The company is also in talks with potential financial products partners and trial marketing is likely to begin next year.

Despite the growth of ecommerce and price cutting in high street stores, direct sales in the UK remain a steady marketing channel, especially for goods aimed mainly at women. Industry turnover is around £2 billion ($3.7bn, €2.9bn).

Avon itself made a respectable £18.6m on revenues of £278m in 2003 and is the country's second largest cosmetics seller after the Boots retail chain.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff