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Avon revenue slides in North America; sales force shrinks

Oct 31 (Reuters) - Avon Products Inc posted weaker-than-expected third-quarter sales on Thursday, hurt by a big drop in North America and in growing markets like Mexico and Russia, and reported the size of its sales force had shrunk.

Revenue fell 7 percent to $2.26 billion, including the impact from currency fluctuations. Analysts expected $2.44 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The most pronounced drop in business came in North America, where revenue slid 19 percent, and the beauty products company's army of Avon Ladies sales representatives shrank by 16 percent.

In Mexico, previously a growing market for Avon, sales fell 7 percent, excluding currency changes, in part because of aggressive discounting by competitors. In Russia, one of the fastest growing cosmetics markets, sales were off 2 percent.

Chief Executive Sheri McCoy, who took the reins of Avon 18 months ago, blamed "macroeconomic headwinds" for the poor showing.

During the quarter, Avon sold 7 percent fewer items, and the number of sales reps fell by 3 percent.

Avon reported a net loss of $5.5 million, or 1 cent per share, compared with a profit of $31.6 million, or 7 cents per share, a year earlier. Adjusted net income came to 14 cents per share, while analysts looked for 19 cents.