United States direct-marketing giant Avon Products has inaugurated a new US$40 million cosmetics factory in Guangzhou. The factory marks the first substantial investment by a foreign direct-marketing company in the mainland since the State Council outlawed direct marketing in April. That ban was later amended in June to allow large multinational direct-marketing companies to sell their products at retail counters and through dedicated stores and sales agents. Avon resumed its mainland marketing operations in July, but continues to scramble to build up a sales network through 80 sales centres in 14 provinces and four cities throughout the country. The company employs about 16,000 dedicated sales workers, compared with 150,000 agents prior to the ban which overhauled direct sales in the country. Speaking at the factory opening, Jose Ferreira, president of Avon Asia-Pacific, said the direct sales ban would force the company's sales volume this year to fall 50 per cent from last year's $77 million. However, Mr Ferreira said he expected next year's sales volume to recover to last year's levels. He also said the company was building up its sales team. 'Our goal is to improve our share of this market of 1.2 billion people,' he said. Avon's new factory covers 7,431 square feet, comprising offices, production workshops and a warehouse. The facility will utilise imported production, packaging computer and delivery systems to manufacture a variety of skin care and hair products. The factory represents the second large investment for Avon since 1990, when the company began marketing in the mainland. The firm also has a $30 million production facility in Guangzhou. Also attending yesterday's ceremony was the company's chief executive Charles Perrin.