Global cosmetics giant Avon has announced it will be leaving New Zealand and Australia.

In a statement, the company confirmed Avon would close its operations in Australia and New Zealand by the end of the year, leaving the company's 220 staff and more than 21,400 representatives facing an uncertain future.

The statement read: "As part of the company's strategy to return Avon to long-term sustainable profitable growth, the focus will be on markets with the greatest potential for future growth to support its vision of becoming the world's leading social beauty company.

"In line with this, after a thorough deliberation on our performance, the direct selling conditions in the market, and potential for growth, we have considered all options for the business and it is with much sadness that we are announcing our decision to exit the Australia and New Zealand markets."

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Avon ANZ president and managing director Sharon Plant said it was a "sad day" for the company's employees and representatives.

"As a management team our commitment and focus over the coming days, weeks and months is to support our people and the wider Avon community who are impacted by this decision," Plant said.

"I would like to thank all the employees, representatives and customers who have supported Avon in Australia and New Zealand over the years."

The cosmetics company, which was founded in New York in 1886, is famous for its direct-selling method.

It has branches throughout the globe, reaching Australia in 1963 and New Zealand in 1978.

In 2016 the company had annual worldwide sales of US$5.7 billion ($7.7b) — but the brand has struggled with plummeting sales for the past five years.

It remains the world's fifth-largest beauty company and the second largest direct selling enterprise, although in 2016, the company sold off it's American business with all operations now outside the US.

In a Facebook post, the company said: "This is a very sad day for our employees and Representatives. As a management team our commitment and focus over the coming days, weeks and months is to support our people and the wider Avon community who are impacted by this decision."

According to Forbes, Avon was the second largest beauty brand in the world in 2012 with a brand value of US$7.9 billion.

According to the company's website, Avon products are available in more than 100 countries.

The company says its products are sold through more than 6 million active independent Avon Sales Representatives around the world. The company has "many thousands" of representatives across both Australia and New Zealand.

The company traced its roots back to 1886, when a struggling door-to-door salesman David McConnell made the decision to sell perfumes, rather than books to New York homes, the company's website says.

At that time the company was known as The California Perfume Company. The business did well McConnell appointed his first general agent - Persis Foster Eames Albee.

"At a time before women even had the right to vote, Mrs. Albee was instrumental in establishing the unique sales method that continues to be Avon's hallmark today," the website says.

McConnell wanted to expand the company overseas and recognised a need to change the company name.

"Having been enchanted by the beauty of Stratford upon Avon during a visit to England, David McConnell was inspired, and in 1939 he chose the name 'Avon' for his growing international company."

- news.com.au, NZ Herald