Mary Kay Attracts Increasingly Young, Diverse Salesforce in 2015

Mary Kay Inc. reports an increasing number of young women starting their own Mary Kay businesses. Women ages 18-34 accounted for 47 percent of new consultants in 2015, according to statistics released by the cosmetics company.

“These young women are tech-savvy and digitally connected. They’re looking for flexibility and not a 9 to 5, one-size-fits-all position,” Mary Kay’s Vice President of U.S. Marketing, Sara Friedman, said in a statement. “A Mary Kay business can be customized to each person’s individual goals, and our company’s established social media presence and leading-edge digital technology have also proven to be attractive business-building tools.”

Friedman’s sentiments echo the findings of Amway’s 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Report, an in-depth look at the state of entrepreneurship around the world. Conducted in 44 countries, the survey found that starting a business is most appealing to those under 35 (65 percent), with independence and self-fulfillment being the top motivators. In the 35-49 demographic, 58 percent expressed the desire to start a business, followed by 44 percent of respondents over 50.

All told, more than 325,000 people signed up last year to sell Mary Kay’s skincare and cosmetics lines. The Addison, Texas-based company reports that new consultant sign-ups have exceeded 300,000 for 15 consecutive years.

As Mary Kay’s salesforce skews younger, it also grows more diverse. In 2015, 51 percent of new consultants identified as Latino, Asian or African American—groups that now make up 33 percent of Mary Kay’s total salesforce. Drilling down, the company found that Latinos accounted for 35 percent of last year’s recruits and 22 percent of the wider salesforce.


Natura Becomes World’s Largest B Corps Certified Brand

Natura Cosméticos, Brazil’s leading cosmetics, fragrance and toiletries maker, has built its business on a commitment to sustainable development. The brand’s purpose-driven practices emphasize respect for and preservation of the planet, as well as a strong sense of social responsibility. Pursuing that core philosophy, Nature has now become the largest—and first publicly traded—company to attain B Corps certification.

The nonprofit B Lab certifies B Corporations for voluntarily meeting rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. More than 1,000 Certified B Corps across 33 countries and more than 60 industries are currently working to give new meaning to success in business.

Like its fellow B Corps, Natura leverages the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. For example, the company has long used refill packaging with less than half the environmental impact of conventional versions, and consistently works to reduce its consumption of water, energy and raw materials. Natura is also working to preserve Brazil’s biodiversity through a research program in partnership with Brazilian universities. A focus on people and place has led Natura to build “equitable” relations with numerous traditional communities to obtain ingredients found in local flora.

Natura joins two other large, high-profile businesses recently added to the B Corps ranks. Crowdfunding platform Kickstarter and energy company Green Mountain Power both announced certification earlier this month. With these latest additions—Natura is a 7,000-employee company with $2.65 billion in net sales last year—B Corps has added considerable heft to its community of small, privately owned companies.

90 Days of Direct Selling – Day 13(2)


Direct Selling NewsAs a part of our 90 Days of Direct Selling Celebration, we are sharing short interviews we’ve conducted with executives in the industry. Here are a couple of questions that Nu Skin’s CEO Truman Hunt answered for us.


DSN: What is the one thing you enjoy most about being the CEO of Nu Skin?

TH: I love being part of a global family of like-minded, positive people. And I get to see how Nu Skin has changed the lives of so many people in different ways. For some this change has been financial, for others it has been a change in their appearance or health, and for many Nu Skin has given them empowering and wonderful ways to help make the world a better place.

DSN: If you could hit “replay” on any part of your own Nu Skin journey, either to enjoy the moment or to do something different, what would it be?

TH: That’s a tough question since we’ve had so many incredible moments at Nu Skin. I guess I would have to say I’d love to relive the moment when we first hit $1 billion in annual revenue. Why? Because when Blake, Steve and Sandie were first building the company, there were so many people who doubted their ability to make Nu Skin—and their vision—a success. It was really gratifying to prove to ourselves and to the world that Nu Skin was growing and thriving and making a real difference in millions of people’s lives.

DSN: What’s one piece of advice that you’ve found especially useful?

TH: One bit of advice that has stuck with me perhaps like no other was the definition of leadership offered by Jim Collins at our recent DSA annual meeting. He defined leadership as “the art of getting people to want to do the things that must be done.” I think the definition hits the nail on the head. And it’s why leadership of a business is probably the most challenging job in the world. It’s one thing to dictate to people what to do. But real leadership is the ability to get people to want to do critical things. That’s when the magic happens.


Creating The Perfect Day: 7 Principles For Priority Living – Passion, Potential and Procrastination


Todd Duncan is the author of High Trust Selling, sought-after speaker and personal development expert.

Todd Duncan


Priority living occurs when your business and life work together. The patterns of execution that cause you to be a successful originator also cause you to be a successful father, mother, husband or wife. Priority living is a 360 degree approach to living on purpose and doing business on purpose. Ultimately, by following these principles, you will do what’s necessary to earn more money in less time with less stress. Let’s review the first three principles now:PRINCIPLE #1: Increase Your Passion!

Passion is what success is all about. You have to love this business. Be excited by the prospect of having a perfect day, of going home 100% fulfilled every day, of knowing that you can double your income and time off while living your dreams and your purpose.

PRINCIPLE #2: Reduce Your Procrastination! You don’t have to be great to start but you have to start to be great.

Take action now. Don’t let fear stop you. Run to the customer that’s upset, the Realtor ® you feel you won’t get an appointment with, the business model you know you want to create, or the assistant you’ve thought about hiring. When you have faith in the future, the knowledge and skills to do what you need to do, and momentum from repeating an action until it is a new habit, then there will be no need to procrastinate.

PRINCIPLE #3: Unlock Your Potential!

You have more potential than you think. As Norman Vincent Peale says, “Anybody can do just about anything with himself that he really wants to and makes up his mind to do. We are all capable of greater things than we realize.”

Coming soon: four more principles of priority living that are also crucial to creating your perfect day.

For more on creating the perfect day, Todd Duncan expands on the idea of building a desirable life his MP3, Life Mastery: Living Life by Design, available at the SUCCESS Store.

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The Great Potential: Unlocking the Power of Emerging Markets

by Beth Douglass Silcox


Click here to order the September 2013 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.

DSN September 2013
Editor’s Note:

Our September cover story is an update on the March 2013 story, “Direct Selling’s Billion Dollar Markets,” with a focus on the great potential of emerging countries. We have elected to move our annual research on billion dollar markets from March to September each year in order to best utilize the extensive research conducted by the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations’ (WFDSA) Research Committee. (The most recent statistics, 2012, were just released this summer.) This team works over 5,500 person hours to gather, vet, analyze and report annual data to assess and size the direct selling market in each region of the world, and their data provides us with one of the primary sources for our own research.

Enjoy the update in this issue, and look for the next full coverage of DSN’s Billion Dollar Markets annual research each September going forward.

An industry that generates $166.9 billion annually wields exceptional power, especially when 89.7 million global citizens are the core of its strength. Regardless where in the world they call home—advanced or emerging markets—tenacious entrepreneurs use the direct selling business model to increase their incomes, enhance their own socioeconomic status and collectively improve local, regional and national economies.

Globally, the direct selling industry grew 5.4 percent in 2012 and a cumulative 13.9 percent since 2010. Posting that kind of increase is impressive, especially during a global economic recovery. But dissecting WFDSA’s 2012 global direct selling survey proved equally impressive when statistics showed emerging markets were responsible for 44 percent of global direct sales, a gain of 9 percent in just two years.

Of the 23 countries on Direct Selling News’ Billion Dollar Markets for 2012, only 10 are considered advanced direct selling markets. The remaining 13 are young and emerging. Markets like China, Malaysia, Colombia, Thailand, Russia and India have come on strong despite legislative and importing restrictions, cultural complications and lower GDPs. In these emerging markets—where 85 percent of the world’s population base lies—direct selling’s “Great Potential” is waiting.

Unlocking The Great Potential

Chart1To unlock these emerging markets it is necessary to understand the compelling reasons direct selling is flourishing.

“From an economic perspective, you have people with lower levels of education and little discretionary income or resources to invest in a business, and at the same time you have a rapidly growing middle class that can now afford to buy products like this from friends and family. You have demand and supply growing together, and it’s kind of like the perfect storm,” says Jeffrey Dahl, President of Amway Latin America.

This scenario plays out wherever emerging markets exist, wherever there are entrepreneurial-minded individuals who seek to improve their socioeconomic status.

European economic strife has caused a “classical story” to play out in recent years, according to Maurits Bruggink, Executive Director of SELDIA, the European Direct Selling Association. “When things go bad and people lose their jobs, they start being more interested in direct selling to complement and increase their incomes. It is a phenomenon in Europe right now that is a bit bigger and wider,” he says.

“You have demand and supply growing together, and it’s kind of like the perfect storm.”
—Jeffrey Dahl, President, Amway Latin America

While some emerging market direct sellers are motivated by disappearing job opportunities, for others high-wage jobs never existed in the first place. Dahl says, “In many emerging markets they aren’t used to the corporate orientation. They are entrepreneurs and work with small commercial opportunities. So direct selling is a natural extension for them.” And for many, direct selling is a socioeconomic equalizer and a path to the middle class.

CAPEVEDI, Peru’s direct selling association, surveyed 600 people about the socioeconomic impact of direct selling on families. Of respondents, 90 percent were women, 50 percent were over 40 years old and most were married with an average of five children at home. Also, 62 percent of the respondents indicated they did not have a job, were retired or only worked part time before entering direct sales.

Those families feel the impact of extra income generated by direct selling, and Lourdes Montagne, a staff member at CAPEVEDI, says, “Direct selling fosters a more democratized environment in many Peruvian families, providing the opportunity for equality or balance of economic income for each family member.”

Dr. Dora Hoan, Founder of Best World International, a direct seller based in Singapore, says, “The growth of the middle class means higher purchasing power and greater desire to improve their quality of life. This means more customers with more disposable income for direct sellers.”

Montagne agrees: “The growth of the middle class in Peru is hand-in-hand with the increase in their purchasing power, which automatically generates changes in the consumption habits of this social class.”

“The growth of the middle class means higher purchasing power and greater desire to improve their quality of life.”
—Dr. Dora Hoan, Founder, Best World International

People in emerging European markets like Poland or Slovenia, Bruggink says, want to be involved in direct selling because they don’t have access to Western products and retail distribution systems.

“The retail that you have in a lot of emerging markets is Mom and Pop,” Dahl says. “Buying from a Mom and Pop is a lot like the direct selling dynamic. You are buying from a family in the neighborhood. So it is little wonder that emerging markets are grabbing hold of direct selling as a viable business model.”

Embracing The Great Potential

Click to Enlarge“We believe that emerging markets are ‘The Great Potential,’ ” Hoan says. “After all, there are many enterprising people there who welcome business opportunities from direct selling. That being said, there are risks in these markets. The business regulations may not be conducive to direct selling; the people may not be welcoming or they may have limited purchasing power… but remember, no risk, no gain.”

The decision to expand internationally is certainly not as simple as contemplating mature versus emerging markets, but Dahl asserts, “It is a fair filter.” The regulatory environment, economic indicators and competition must be considered.

“Many companies choose to expand where direct selling associations are located and the industry is established,” says Jose Paez, Director General of Amway Mexico. “It’s easier to get in there and communicate your systems, communicate your mechanics, and get your permits to legally operate.”

But expansion strategies differ, depending upon the company and the target region. Miguel Arismendi, Chairman of ACOVEDI, Colombia’s direct selling association, sees new companies entering small and medium markets to test the Latin American waters before expanding to larger markets.

In Europe, the opposite is true. “When companies enter Europe, they do not enter in emerging markets,” Bruggink says. “They always seek a foothold in Western Europe, and that remains the strength of Western Europe—the economic stability of GDP, income per capita and regulatory assurance.”

Arismendi says, “It is a challenge and can be more difficult in some emerging markets than in others, but in general direct selling companies have adapted their portfolios and operations to the regulatory issues in the markets.”

“Companies are excelling in a very hybrid way and adapting their own operations to what these countries can provide.”
—Jose Paez, Director General, Amway Mexico

Explosive expansion of direct selling in China and India are a case in point. “If you look at what companies have done in those markets, they have adapted themselves. Companies in China can’t do what they have done in the U.S. or Europe,” Paez says.

In the case of most companies operating in China, for instance, they must open stores or nutritional centers in every small city because Chinese law forbids gathering or networking. “Companies have to adapt to these situations,” he says. “They are excelling in a very hybrid way and adapting their own operations to what these countries can provide. It is true that direct sales is having an impact and growing day by day, but again, not with the same mechanisms.”

The Great Bounce-Back Potential

Best World International is a medium-sized direct selling company based in Asia that cautiously and gradually expands into nearby countries. But, Hoan admits, chance and distributor connections have played a role in some expansions into “uncharted” countries. “Our overseas expansions happened this way. Nevertheless, for this type of expansion to happen, the direct sellers have to be very motivated and willing to brave all odds,” she says.

Paez adds, “Social media has helped almost everyone get connected wherever they are. People with friends in the U.S. are opening lines there using social media to do so.”

Dahl confirms, “There’s definitely a bounce-back effect that companies who operate in multiple markets are starting to dig into, focus on and build strategies to develop. Technology makes it much easier. People coming to the U.S., for instance, get exposed to a direct selling opportunity, and then it bounces back to friends and family in their homeland, and vice versa.”

“There’s definitely a bounce-back effect that companies who operate in multiple markets are starting to dig into, focus on and build strategies to develop. Technology makes it much easier.”
—Jeffrey Dahl

Even some advanced market growth, Dahl supposes, is likely the result of immigrants bringing positive cultural attitudes about direct selling to places like the U.S., where Hispanics, Koreans and Asian Indians are doing very, very well. “If I were a struggling company in the U.S. or another mature market, I would vector my resources to some of these segments that are limited in investment opportunity due to lack of resources, and with a cultural attraction to direct selling,” Dahl says.

Flexibility, sustainable systems, cultural awareness, and tenacious, open-minded staff and distributors make growth of any kind easier, whether the target is an emerging market or not.

Success in an emerging market is by no means easy or certain, but that could be said of mature markets as well. There are legislative hurdles to clear and reputations to build. But as more direct selling companies enter emerging markets, greater understanding takes hold and adds legitimacy to the industry in that market.

The acceptance of direct selling as a viable business option within emerging markets can empower individuals, improve the socioeconomic status of families and have far-reaching impact on the local, regional and national economies. As Hoan puts it, “The industry has room for growth, while the countries can benefit from its revenue. Individuals can make use of the business platform to empower themselves. On the whole, expansion into emerging markets is good for all parties involved.”

Billion Dollar Markets

Click to enlarge

1. United States—$31.6 Billion

The United States occupies the top spot on the 2012 Billion Dollar Markets list, up 5.9 percent since 2011 and outpacing overall U.S. GDP economic growth of 4 percent for 2012. The U.S. market makes up 19 percent of global direct sales overall. A closer look at U.S. growth by the U.S. Direct Selling Association showed that 60 percent of companies experienced growth in 2012.

The direct selling community includes some 15.9 million independent representatives, of which 77 percent are female and 68 percent participate in person-to-person sales. Wellness and services—including utilities and financial products—continue to grow steadily, thanks to increased consumer awareness and the deregulation of the energy industry. The breakdown by product category: wellness products (27 percent), household goods and durables (19 percent), cosmetics and personal care (17 percent), clothing and accessories (12 percent), financial services (10 percent), and utilities (8 percent).

“The strong performance of direct selling in the United States and around the world continues to underscore the economic and social relevance of this business model,” USDSA President Joseph Mariano says. “Despite progress toward economic recovery, there are still many Americans looking for a source of supplemental income. Coupled with increasing consumer confidence, both sales and interest in the opportunity are at near-record levels.”

“The strong performance of direct selling in the United States and around the world continues to underscore the economic and social relevance of this business model.”
—Joseph Mariano, President, USDSA

2. Japan—$22.7 Billion

The Japanese direct selling market decreased by 4.8 percent in 2012, and if trends continue this year they may slip rank to No. 3. Japan comprises 14 percent of global direct sales, with 3.4 million sellers (78 percent female) participating primarily in person-to-person (95 percent) sales. Cosmetics and personal care (30 percent), wellness (29 percent), and household goods and durables (19 percent) led Japanese product sales.

3. China—$20.0 Billion

China is a rapidly growing market and could eclipse Japan’s No. 2 ranking when 2013 statistics are available next June. WFDSA’s research estimates indicate China’s growth at 13.5 percent in 2012 with a market comprising 12 percent of global direct sales. Statistical reporting of product categories, number of direct sellers or sales by method are not available.

Click to enlarge

4. Brazil—$14.6 Billion

Comprising 9 percent of the global direct selling market, Brazil’s 6.7 million sellers grew this Latin American powerhouse 13.1 percent in 2012 through 100 percent person-to-person sales. While gender breakdowns were not available, Latin American direct selling is predominantly female.

5. Korea—$13.3 Billion

The direct selling community in Korea grew to 5 million sellers (79 percent female), up from 4.2 million in 2011. They expanded this market 4.3 percent and brought the global direct selling share of their country to 8 percent through person-to-person (75 percent) and party plan (25 percent) sales. Wellness (35 percent); cosmetics and personal care (26 percent); household goods and durables (12 percent); and books, toys and stationery (11 percent) led product sales.

6. Mexico—$7.3 Billion

Mexico’s direct selling community is 96 percent female and dominated by cosmetics and personal-care products (42 percent) and clothing and accessories (31 percent), while wellness (21 percent) is gaining traction. All told, Mexico increased revenues 7 percent in 2012; they comprise 4.3 percent of global direct sales.

7. France—$4.9 Billion

France formally recognized direct selling in 2012, which contributed to the country’s 4.1 percent revenue growth. In total, 500,000 sellers (79 percent female) participate in person-to-person (61 percent) and party plan (39 percent) direct selling methods. The home improvement category uniquely leads French direct selling at 37 percent, with household and durable goods second at 15 percent. France comprises 3 percent of global direct sales market share.

8. Malaysia—$4.7 Billion

Rising 7 percent and gaining 250,000 sellers, Malaysia’s direct selling market diversified from a 100 percent person-to-person in 2011 to a 90/10 split with party plan in 2012. Today some 4.8 million sellers (61 percent female) represent wellness (43 percent), household goods and durables (23 percent), as well as cosmetics and personal-care products (16 percent).

Click to enlarge

9. Russia—$4.3 Billion

From 2011 to 2012, the Russian direct selling market grew 4.1 percent, from $4.1 billion with 4.3 million sellers (86 percent female). Cosmetics and personal-care products comprised 67 percent of the Russian market, with wellness ranking second at 11 percent. And 86 percent of all sales are person-to-person.

10. Germany—$3.8 Billion

Despite economic turmoil within the European Union countries, Germany’s direct selling industry rose slightly—up 0.8 percent from $3.8 billion—as did their number of direct sellers (300,000 in 2012 versus 285,000 in 2011). Sales methods are split almost evenly, but females continue to dominate the field at 80 percent for the second year. Product category breakdowns are: household goods (34 percent), cosmetics (19 percent), wellness (11 percent) and home improvement (10 percent).

11. United Kingdom—$3.2 Billion

The United Kingdom’s direct selling revenue grew the most of any other European country in 2012, with overall revenues rising 7.2 percent from $2.9 billion. Wellness led the way in product category sales in the UK, comprising 39 percent of direct sales, while a mix of cosmetics and personal care (18 percent) and household goods and durables (16 percent) rounded out the industry. The size of the direct selling community was at 400,000, with 75 percent female. Of that, 70 percent are selling person-to-person, while 30 percent are earning through party plan sales models.

12. Colombia—$3.0 Billion

Rapid growth is seen in the emerging Latin American market of Colombia, where 1.5 million sellers caused that country’s direct selling revenue to rise 7.6 percent from $2.8 billion in 2011. Dominated by females (95 percent) conducting person-to-person sales (86 percent), Colombia’s direct selling customer wants cosmetics and personal-care (59 percent), clothing and accessories (23 percent), and wellness (10 percent) products.

13. Taiwan—$3.0 Billion

Slight growth (0.6 percent) was witnessed in the Taiwanese market in 2012, where 2.7 million sellers (70 percent female) represent wellness (58 percent), cosmetics and personal-care (15 percent), as well as home-care, household goods and durables, and clothing and accessories.

14. Italy—$3.0 Billion

Italy’s direct selling market suffered a loss of 4.9 percent in 2012, while gaining nearly 100,000 new members of its direct selling community (500,000). Females continued to dominate the Italian direct selling community (71 percent), and cosmetics and personal-care products comprised 33 percent of the market. Participation by males grew 5 percent in 2012 (29 percent), which may explain the 6 percent growth of person-to-person sales models and increased market share of wellness (20 percent) and foodstuffs and beverages (15 percent) companies.

15. Thailand—$2.9 Billion

2012 was a year of explosive growth in Thailand’s direct selling community, with some 800,000 new direct sellers signing on with companies, resulting in total revenue growth of 7 percent. Wellness products surged ahead to 39 percent of total category sales, while cosmetics and personal-care products dipped to 27 percent. Person-to-person sales increased 10 percent, totaling 69 percent of all sales methods used by a mostly female (67 percent) representative field; however, 3 percent more Thai males jumped into direct selling (33 percent).

16. Venezuela—$2.3 Billion

Despite appearing lower in the ranking this year, Venezuela’s direct selling industry increased 6.8 percent. Of the country’s 1.2 million sellers, 80 percent were female; however, an 11 percent increase in male participation in 2012 may be due in part to the growing wellness product category. While the traditionally female stronghold of cosmetics and personal-care items still led category sales at 30 percent, statistics show that wellness gained 13 percent in 2012. Person-to-person made up 95 percent of all sales.

17. Canada—$2.2 Billion

Canada’s 1 percent growth may be the result of the expanding category of cosmetics and personal care, which comprised 39 percent of product sales in 2012, as well as utilities, which posted 10 percent this year. All other categories suffered losses. Sales methodologies were almost evenly split within Canada’s salesforce of 700,000 independent representatives, of which 84 percent were female.

18. Argentina—$1.7 Billion

Marked growth in other Billion Dollar Markets caused Argentina to hold its No. 18 rank despite an astounding 12.5 percent growth in the country. Almost exclusively female (96 percent), Argentina’s direct selling community of 700,000 grew by nearly 80,000 in 2012. They were meeting the needs of customers, 67 percent of which sought cosmetics and personal-care items through one-on-one relationships (84 percent) with direct sellers.

19. Australia—$1.5 Billion

Cosmetics/personal-care and wellness products made up more than half of Australia’s direct selling product sales. Some 400,000 direct sellers (85 percent female) were practically split in half between party plan and person-to-person sales models. Australia’s direct selling revenues were up 4 percent from 2011 statistics.

20. Peru—$1.4 Billion

Adding some 50,000 Peruvian direct sellers to the community brought an 11.2 percent increase in revenues to this emerging market. Peru’s salesforce is predominately female at 91 percent, and examination of the most successful direct selling product categories reflects the gender of the selling community. Cosmetics and personal care rank No. 1 at 36 percent, with clothing and accessories (29 percent) a close second. Wellness represents 19 percent of the market.

21. Indonesia—$1.1 Billion

Indonesia advanced one ranking this year, having 11 percent growth due to nearly 1 million more direct sellers in country. Sales methodology and product category statistics were not reported in 2011 or 2012.

22. India—$1.1 Billion

Growth of 22.6 percent from $858 million in revenue in 2011 landed India on the Billion Dollar Markets list for the first time. India’s market is comprised primarily of wellness products (44 percent), but cosmetics and personal-care (33 percent) and home-care products (14 percent) are also integral to their success. With an ever-expanding seller base (4.9 million), nearly 1 million more in 2012 than the previous year, 63 percent are female and 38 percent are male, participating in person-to-person (69 percent) and party plan (23 percent) sales.

23. Philippines—$1.0 Billion

Wellness products are far and away the leading cause of the Philippines’ rise to the Billion Dollar Markets list for the first time this year. Revenues rose 31.3 percent from $770 million in 2011, thanks to 3 million sellers, split 60/40 female, conducting virtually all sales via person-to-person contact.

Regional Profiles

Asia Pacific

Asia Pacific is the largest region for direct selling, making up 44 percent of the industry’s global sales. Retail sales rose 4.4 percent in this region to $73.3 billion. Within this region the direct selling community experienced tremendous growth at 9.9 percent, raising the count of people participating in direct selling to 46.1 million in 2012.

Asia is home to much of the world’s population, so clearly part of these statistics is due to the sheer volume of people in that region; however, direct selling seems to be a great fit for the Asian markets and cultures as well. And because direct selling is profitable, it has become increasingly legitimate to choose it as a potential career—not merely as a fallback position.

There is a very strong work ethic in Asia. With few government security nets, people often want multiple jobs and income streams. Their entrepreneurial spirit and desire to have their own businesses are also strong. While in the Western world one goes to college and then gets a job, the preferred path in Asia is to start a business. Direct selling offers them this entrepreneurial fulfillment at a very low cost.

The Asian cultures are very comfortable with purchasing from friends or on the recommendation of friends or family members. For these reasons and more, the Asia/Pacific region will likely continue to experience significant growth in the foreseeable future.

The Americas

The Americas comprise 40 percent of global industry sales, split evenly between North America’s U.S. and Canadian market and the 11 markets that comprise South and Central America. Overall retail sales in the Americas rose 7.9 percent to $66.4 billion. While North America saw growth of 5.6 percent ($33.9 billion), South and Central America saw a double-digit increase of 10.4 percent, with sales reported at $32.6 billion.

Latin America’s impact on worldwide sales figures is notable. Miguel Arismendi, Chairman of ACOVEDI, the Colombian direct selling association, says the expanding middle class is causing health and wellness product categories to gain traction. “It is effectively, positively the entrance of males into the direct selling industry because it is an attractive category for them.”


The European market is comprised of Western, Central and Eastern Europe. All are governed by SELDIA, the European Direct Selling Association, and play by the same direct selling code of ethics as a result. Together, Europe makes up 16 percent of global industry sales—11 percent, Western; 5 percent, Central and Eastern.

European growth is holding steady despite a financial crisis still hanging over many European Union countries. While Western Europe, with more established and mature direct selling markets, rose 1.3 percent to sales totaling $17.7 billion, Central and Eastern European markets enjoyed a 4.3 percent increase. That brought their sales to $8.1 billion. In all, Europe rose 2.2 percent, totaling $25.9 billion.

Widely differing GDPs, income per capita, government interaction, familiarity with direct selling and cultural differences all weigh into the direct selling activity measured in Europe. Often, direct selling growth is a tug-of-war between the European Union regulation originating in mature markets and Central and Eastern Europe’s less restrictive governmental policies that give them competitive advantage. Maurits Bruggink, Executive Director of SELDIA, says, “I am hopeful that Central and Eastern European member states will be successful in overhauling pieces of over-regulation by the European Union.”

Africa and Middle East

Africa and the Middle East had an estimated 1 percent of global industry retail sales in 2012.

What’s Next?

by Hil Davis, Co-Founder of custom clothier J.Hilburn

Click here to order the August 2013 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.

How the traditional retail world’s paradigm shift from multi-channel to omni-channel will impact direct sales forever

Traditional retail is broken. There is limited store-opening growth as middle to smaller markets cannot justify the four-wall investment. It is under attack from e-commerce competitors, customer show-rooming, social commerce models and even direct sales.

I do not believe traditional retail is going away like venture capitalist Marc Andreessen believes it will. Some retailers will get left behind—think Borders and Circuit City—and some will reinvent themselves and morph into the next-gen retailer. Regardless though, the management teams, boards and investors will require each retailer to keep a foot on the gas and pursue top-line growth through any model or channel.

And just like they did with e-commerce, they will look around at existing distribution channels and start testing them for success.

In fact, this is evident in traditional retail’s paradigm shift from multi-channel retail (bricks and mortar plus e-comm) to omni-channel. So what does omni-channel really mean? No one really knows what the final definition is, but right now what it means is traditional retail is beta-testing new growth models and shifting the cash they spend on store openings into these beta tests.

And one of those growth models is direct sales. Traditional retail is coming our way, and I think the first traditional retail presence will occur in the next two to three years. Once traditional retail experiences the power of the direct sales model, they will go “all-in.”

The future of retail is bricks, clicks and personal sidekicks!

The future of retail is bricks, clicks and personal sidekicks!

I believe the biggest benefit of this shift will be the legitimization of direct sales as a distribution channel.

This reminds me of a similar shift that took place in franchising in the late 1980s. Franchising was considered a lesser distribution channel by the consumer and the traditional business world. Then the restaurant and retail industry realized the benefits of the franchise model from the limited-to-no capex to low fixed operating costs, to highly visible and consistent revenue.

Top DeskTraditional retail embraced franchising. Fast-forward to today, and franchising is considered to be a legitimate channel and has attracted higher and higher quality operators and leaders.

I believe direct sales will undergo the same transition as traditional retail embraces direct sales’ low fixed operating costs, limited-to-no capex, and visible and semi-consistent revenue. The churn is where they will struggle, but I see this declining as the channel is “legitimized” in the consumer’s mind.

This will create a significant growth opportunity for current and potential direct sales companies driven by the possible number of customers and distributors direct sales can reach. Think of all the markets that direct sales can reach but a traditional retailer cannot due to lack of ROI.

I think there will be an exciting and powerful fusion between the two worlds. Direct sales will bring knowledge about how to successfully tap into and scale people’s behaviors and motivation, while traditional retail will bring operating scale and discipline, world-class marketing/branding, and massive technology investments.

I have always believed and said that direct sales is the most powerful business model in the world. It is like franchising on steroids. Yet there are very few billion-dollar direct sales companies, which has never made sense to me because there should be more billion-dollar companies in direct sales than traditional retail.

I think the infusion of the best of breed traditional retail practices and their mass-market appeal with the people knowledge of direct sales will propel direct sales to the next level of growth.

I think the infusion of the best of breed traditional retail practices and their mass-market appeal with the people knowledge of direct sales will propel direct sales to the next level of growth.

Just think of the power of local plus social from direct sales wrapped around the brand and marketing of a traditional retailer with physical stores to support the distributor.

Now add a layer of tablet technology in the home, plus the data that can be captured and mined to deliver a very curated and personalized customer experience: in person, online or at the store. Retail will never be the same.

Direct sales is the last mile to the home. Every brand and every retailer wants to own this last mile. Direct sales already does.

A marriage between traditional retail and direct sales will solve both industries’ needs. Retail needs growth and wants to own the last mile. Direct sales needs customer legitimacy, world-class branding and marketing, and major technology investments.

This marriage is not a 1+1=2 outcome; rather, the outcome is exponential. The addition of direct sales to traditional retail creates a fusion of all the distribution channels, creating an omni-channel approach.

Most importantly, this changes the customer experience from a channel-driven industry mentality to a holistic customer experience.

Retail becomes agnostic to the channel. Retail becomes customer-centric, leveraging all the channels, online and offline, to deliver a highly curated and personalized customer experience.

Hil Davis is Co-Founder of custom clothier J.Hilburn.


Mary Kay Marks 50 Years with Guinness World Record

Photo courtesy of Mary Kay Inc.

One Woman Can

Mary Kay kicked off its golden anniversary year with a record-setting $3 billion in annual wholesale sales. Now, the iconic beauty brand is adding a Guinness World Record® for the Largest Makeup Painting to its list of achievements in 2013.

At Mary Kay’s annual Seminar, which concluded this week, the company staged an attempt to break the world record using its trademark makeup products—3,500 of them, to be exact. The Seminar brought nearly 50,000 women to Dallas over the course of three weeks, where they had the opportunity to witness the creation of the 608 square-foot (56.5 square-meters) mural.

“We wanted to celebrate Mary Kay’s 50th anniversary in a big, visual way, and the opportunity to set the Guinness World Records title with the biggest painting made out of makeup products seemed only fitting,” said Sheryl Adkins-Green, Chief Marketing Officer for Mary Kay Inc. “The mural is a tribute to the limitless opportunities Mary Kay provides to women around the world along with the innovation and creativity that has always been a part of our culture.”

Mary Kay consultants received a warm welcome as they gathered in Dallas to attend this year’s Seminar, which featured the 50th anniversary theme: “One Woman Can™.” The skyline turned pink as many Dallas landmarks and businesses—such as Reunion Tower, the Dallas Museum of Art and the city’s World Trade Center— paid tribute to the 50-year-old company. Neiman Marcus’ flagship store in downtown Dallas saluted its long-time neighbor with high-fashion window displays in pink and gold, as well as a pink pop-up collection anchored by the company’s signature recognition piece—a 2013 Cadillac CTS in custom Mary Kay pink.

Read more on Mary Kay’s Guinness World Record and golden anniversary celebration.

A Driving Force for Innovation

by Alyssa Wolice

Click here to order the August 2013 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.


It is often said that small business entrepreneurs play a critical part in the revival of the U.S. economy. Given that more than half of all working Americans either own or work for a small business, there is little reason to wonder why President Obama once referred to the small business community as “the backbone” of the U.S. economy and “the cornerstones of our communities.”

While talk of the decline of American entrepreneurship permeates business and financial news coverage on a daily basis, analysts and media commentators often debate the cause of this regression. Many believe the decline is linked to another category in which the U.S. has presumably lagged behind foreign competitors in recent decades—innovation.

A quick Google search will reveal countless editorials about the biggest factors contributing to an alleged decline in U.S. innovation. The evidence cited ranges from a rise in the number of U.S. patents filed by foreign inventors to a slowdown in research spending across a number of industries. But even if the U.S. has suffered from an overall decline in innovation in the last decade, something unique has happened in the direct selling industry in the same time frame—innovation has thrived.

Direct selling is often considered an example of U.S. innovation at its finest. After all, countless direct selling companies rank among the top overall businesses in the U.S. in categories such as health and wellness, personal care, financial services, clothing and accessories, and educational products. But to say the direct sales channel stands as an example of innovation in America is an understatement; rather, direct sellers remain a driving force—a critical component—of the rebirth of U.S. innovation. Even more, direct sellers provide evidence that innovation is not a figment of the past. In fact, the spirit of innovation—as well as entrepreneurship, modernization, creativity and vision—is what has powered the direct selling industry to enjoy tremendous success, even as other industries continue to struggle.

Not only does direct selling support both globalization and the growth of U.S. small businesses simultaneously in ways no other industry can, but the industry also breaks through seemingly insurmountable barriers such as the rising costs of education and business training and the resulting achievement gap. And while many of today’s leading direct sellers have stood as household names since the mid-20th century, direct selling companies of all shapes and sizes have rolled out unmatched products and services, transformed what it means to promote eco-friendly practices, and even incorporated top-of-the-line technologies to provide distributors and employees alike with invaluable business tools and education, free of charge.

Earlier this summer, the Direct Selling Association released its 2012 Growth & Outlook Survey Report to survey participants. According to the report, the share of sales for two categories—Wellness (including weight-management products, nutritional supplements, health foods and beverages) and Services (including utilities and financial products)—has steadily increased over the last several years. Additionally, energy deregulation has contributed to the rise in sales in the Services category, as a number of energy companies have chosen a direct sales approach.

What does this mean?

Put simply, it means direct selling is flourishing—and not just in one or two product categories. Rather, direct selling companies have made a tremendous impact on industries that are commonly viewed as the biggest influencers behind economic growth and recovery in the U.S.—clean energy, business services, health and wellness education, telecommunications services, and Internet technologies.

While the country awaits a resolution for slow-to-improve employment rates, rising costs of sought-after education and streamlined access to skills training demanded by companies across the board, direct selling has quietly provided an answer to all of the above. By offering both men and women equal opportunities to launch independent businesses in any field of their choosing, the direct selling industry has empowered millions, including many who have felt discriminated against because of their lack of access to higher education or expensive job training, or their inability to adhere to a fixed employment schedule due to family or personal obligations.

With U.S. direct sales totaling $31.6 billion in 2012—a 5.9 percent year-over-year increase from $29.87 billion in 2011—it’s clear that innovation is not a term to be defined and studied in U.S. history books. It is, instead, alive and well and embodied by countless direct sellers across the country.

Alyssa Wolice is Communications Specialist

at the U.S. Direct Selling Association.



Thirty-One Gifts: Teamwork Sustains Phenomenal Growth

by J.M. Emmert

Photo above: Products from Thirty-One’s new Fall Catalog: (clockwise from left) Organizing Utility Tote, Thermal Tote, Free to Be Crossbody Purse and Large Utility Tote.

Click here to order the August 2013 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.

Thirty-One 10 Year Anniversary

Company Profile

  • Founded: 2003
  • Headquarters: Columbus, Ohio
  • Founder and CEO: Cindy Monroe
  • Products: Handbags, totes, thermals, organizational items

Cindy Monroe has a simple leadership philosophy: surround herself with a great team. It’s a philosophy that has served her well as founder and CEO over the last few years as her company, Thirty-One Gifts, has experienced incredible growth.

Cindy Monroe

The company, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, has grown from a small business in the basement of Monroe’s Chattanooga, Tenn., home to the 14th-largest private company in central Ohio, where its headquarters are now located. Its 810,000-square-foot home office and distribution center houses nearly 1,800 employees, and the company has another 1.8 million square feet in three distribution centers across Ohio.

More than 115,000 independent consultants in the United States and Canada sell the stylish and functional purses, totes, fashion accessories and organizing solutions that now constitute the product line Monroe began back in 2003 with a $10,000 loan from family and friends.

Today, Thirty-One Gifts is the third-largest party plan company in the United States, behind only Mary Kay and Tupperware, and last year it had one of the greatest growth percentages of any direct seller—49 percent—going from $482 million in 2011 to $718 million in 2012. That revenue growth of $236 million catapulted Thirty-One into the top 20 of the DSN Global 100 companies, where it came in at No. 18 for 2012.

However, phenomenal growth sometimes comes with phenomenal challenges. A company growing so quickly and successfully must have the infrastructure in place to handle expanding needs. And Thirty-One has been able to successfully move through this explosive growth period because of the great team Monroe has surrounded herself with—those “amazing consultants, leaders in the field, and employees and leaders at the home office” who she says continue to take the company to new heights.

Thirty-One Gifts is the third-largest party plan company in the United States, behind only Mary Kay and Tupperware, and last year it had one of the greatest growth percentages of any direct seller—49 percent.

Ready to Be Jewelled and Fabulous

Jewel Product

For the past two years, Christina Snyder has seen firsthand how Thirty-One Gifts CEO Cindy Monroe has encouraged and empowered women to achieve their personal financial goals.

Now, Snyder will spearhead the efforts to further support Monroe’s mission by offering women the opportunity to run their own businesses, as President of Jewell, the new direct selling company she has co-founded with Monroe and Christie Jewell Woodfin, Monroe’s sister.

“When I learned [Cindy] was developing a new concept to speak to the more professional, fashion-involved woman, I was anxious to help and become involved,” says Snyder, who was the Vice President of Sales Strategy for Thirty- One Gifts. “I am a Jewell woman, and I know so many women like me who will, or already do, love what Jewell offers.”

Jewell, which launched on April 8, offers the latest trends from the runway—handbags, small accessories such as café bags, wallets and patent-pending pockets; scarves; belts; and office tech pouches, bags and organizers.

The products are targeted for busy, more upscale shoppers seeking signature looks. Jewell representatives can provide the personal shopping experience these women require to meet their lifestyle needs.

“We help her organize her life with darling pouches, tech accessories and our life-changing patent-pending pocket system; and then finish her look with our unique straps, versatile belts and beautiful scarves,” Snyder says. “We also help her pick out the gifts she needs for all the events she attends. What busy woman doesn’t want all of that?”

The Jewell experience will differ from traditional home parties offered by companies such as Thirty-One. Get-togethers will be more of a boutique party atmosphere.

“Our Jewell woman is busy—she is involved in her work, community, family and with friends. She is fashion involved and extremely social, so she’s always looking for the latest trends to help her get ready for the many events she attends, hosts and prepares for,” Snyder says. “She loves spending her time with her girlfriends as well, so she looks to Jewell to make this all seamless and easy for her. The unique Jewell Boutique, where personal styling, gift shopping and trend sharing happens, can be held at someone’s home, but it is more likely to happen on the go at the office, book club or coffee shop, wherever our Jewell girl is spending time.”

All of the unique Jewell designs are created in-house and will be showcased in the company’s Spring, Summer, Fall and Holiday catalogs.

“We have a team of seasoned merchants and designers who understand our Jewell woman and what she wants and needs in her life, as well as know intimately the latest trends, colors, prints and styles that will be important each season,” Snyder says. “They are our Jewell girl, living her busy life, so they truly understand the value of special details and nuances, which make our products so desirable.”

In addition to her excitement in teaming with Monroe to offer women new opportunities, Snyder was also very moved by the opportunity to create a company with a financial model of giving back built in from Day One.

Jewell is a corporate partner of Dress for Success Worldwide, an internationally recognized organization founded in New York City that helps women in need enter the workplace, often for the very first time. Since its formation in 1997, the organization has served more than 650,000 women around the world.

Each Jewell Boutique will make a 10 percent product donation to Dress for Success, ensuring that the Jewell experience makes a significant difference in the lives of others long after the party has ended. “Our mission to help and empower women is very aligned [with Dress for Success], and it just feels right,” Snyder says.

Snyder believes her experience at Thirty-One—plus the 15 years spent before that in executive management positions, including being president of a large multimillion-dollar automotive supplier—has prepared her well for her new role as Jewell’s leader. She learned so much about Monroe’s heart and true sincerity to the mission of empowering women and is appreciative of her support in the new endeavor with Jewell.

“As a startup, we are so grateful to have the support of Thirty-One Gifts,” she says. “Cindy is our CEO and the guidepost of our mission and business. We have been gifted many resources most startups don’t enjoy for many years into their existence, which we are leveraging to build the Jewell brand and business and support our ever-growing team of Jewell representatives.”


Managing the Growth

Supply chain. Fulfillment. Customer satisfaction. They are all critical components to consider when a company is growing as quickly as Thirty-One has the past few years. President Andy Neri says the company’s success is due to three things: people, talent and vision.

“It all starts with having great people with great talent and vision in the critical areas of supply chain, operations and consultant support,” he says. “I’m proud to say we have not only very talented leaders in each of these areas, but exceptionally talented teams.”

In addition, Thirty-One has never been hesitant to rely on outside help—consultants and contract labor—where necessary, to support or supplement the business. “These partnerships have been critical to allowing us to address specific needs very quickly,” Neri says.

In fact, the company’s supply base development has been, according to Neri, nothing short of amazing. “We have built a supplier network of committed, talented factories that have demonstrated exceptional commitment, flexibility and an ability to grow with us not just in capacity but in process improvement as well,” he says. “They met every challenge we threw at them to support not just our growth, but a more demanding product line.”

Thirty-One also has talented teams of people in Product Development, Production, Merchandising, Design, and Merchandise Planning that continue to raise the bar as it relates to all aspects of Thirty-One products. “There’s been so much systems and process improvement in each of these areas, but our mindset is always focused on being the best we can be, and the teams keep moving us forward fast, with quality,” Neri says.

Fulfillment and production, including the personalization of many product items, was one of the areas most challenged by the company’s growth. Now, says Neri, it is one of the most talented groups within the company, committed to excellence in everything they do. “We have achieved this through great leadership, great teams and strong partnerships with third-party providers in fulfillment.”

Neri says the company systems, processes, equipment and facilities have all been upgraded to be extremely efficient, accurate and of high quality. “Many folks said we couldn’t implement all of the new systems and processes and bring up new facilities in the time frame we wanted,” he says. “But with a great deal of commitment, talented people and partnerships, we did it, and now they are constantly looking to improve upon their excellence.”

In addition to Operations, Thirty-One faced similar challenges during the growth period with Consultant Support. Company executives followed the same path to success in this area—with great leaders who developed great teams.

“As with all areas mentioned above, it’s always best to have leadership with experience and vision that can move you forward fast with as little lost momentum as possible,” Neri says. “That’s not to say we haven’t made some mistakes or changed our minds on some things along the way; we have, and I think that’s healthy learning.”

Neri says that the commitment to improving its internal processes is all for the sake of the company’s consultants. “The more cohesive, integrated, efficient and accurate these areas of our business are, the better the experience for our consultants—and that’s always our goal.”

Implementing a Freeze

For many companies, putting a freeze on recruiting new consultants can be extremely risky. In some instances, it can kill a company’s momentum completely.

However, Thirty-One did just that a few years ago, in a move that Neri and other executives saw not so much as risky but as necessary.

“Implementing the recruiting freeze was something we felt we had to do to guarantee a quality experience for our Thirty-One consultants,” Neri explains. “As always, we are committed to them and their success. We realized to stay true to this commitment we had to improve critical business processes, systems and overall infrastructure at a faster pace, not just to keep up with but to get out in front of our growth.”

“We realized to stay true to our commitment [to our consultants] we had to improve critical business processes, systems and overall infrastructure at a faster pace, not just to keep up with but to get out in front of our growth.”
—Andy Neri, President

The freeze gave the Thirty-One sales field an opportunity to catch their breath and work “on” their business, not just “in” their business. Neri says the decision to freeze recruiting proved to be a good decision in terms of building long-term confidence in the sales field and potential consultants. “Of course, there was some uncertainty involved in making this decision, mainly around how many new recruits would join after the freeze and how quickly,” he says. “But our business rebounded especially well and continued to grow at an accelerated pace—now with a much stronger infrastructure to support our consultants’ needs. It was absolutely the right thing to do!”

Cindy Monroe is pictured with her husband Scott Monroe (Chief Brand Officer) and sales consultants during a Thirty-One event.

Sales Field Development

Of course, as new consultants joined Thirty-One, managing the training of so many new people became just another challenge for the company. Andrea Dowding, Executive Director of Sales Field Development & Implementation, says that the company was ready to address those issues.

In addition to new consultant webinars and an online library of recorded calls on training topics, Thirty-One began offering a unique program in 2010 called Celebrate & Connect to support training and development.

“Celebrate & Connect meetings are a key connection point with our consultants,” Dowding says. “These meetings help them learn about all of the possibilities for their businesses. Each meeting fosters connections and relationships and recognizes commitment and achievements. Consultants leave energized, excited and reengaged!”

The program provides every attending consultant with the opportunity to meet new friends and connect with her team; celebrate success (her own and the success of other consultants); build momentum to book, sell and recruit; discover how to grow her business with a learning focus for that particular season; and find out the latest news from the home office, including what’s coming next.

“In the month following a Celebrate & Connect, those who attend have 158 percent more personal volume, 466 percent more signups, and 137 percent more parties than someone who doesn’t attend.”
—Andrea Dowding, Executive Director of Sales Field Development & Implementation

Celebrate & Connect holds five events per year, hosted by active area leaders who handle the venue arrangements and all on-site duties. Thirty-One provides all the training materials, handles the online registrations, and gives a step-by-step guide for the leader to conduct the meeting.

“In addition to the camaraderie and celebration, we also give each consultant who registers and attends a new product amenity to set her up for future success,” Dowding says. “The products are typically upcoming customer specials, and she can use them to promote and book future parties. The host leader also receives a special thank-you gift for her efforts and it, too, is a new product.”

Dowding says that the Celebrate & Connect meetings have been very successful, with close to 70 percent of the sales field registering to attend. “The program is our single largest way to touch our salesforce in person. In the month following a Celebrate & Connect, those who attend have 158 percent more personal volume, 466 percent more signups, and 137 percent more parties than someone who doesn’t attend.”

The company’s new mobile app will allow consultants to build their businesses on the go.

Introducing a New App

On May 6, Thirty-One released a new iPhone app that further helps consultants build their businesses by giving them mobile access to the information they need to run a business on the go. The Android version was released on May 15. Since the app became available, there have been more than 2.9 million screen views.

“Our mobile app allows each consultant to have a variety of information at her fingertips and also lets her sync information with her back office,” Dowding says.

“Long-term, I want to be a global company where an extra $300 a month goes further to help make a house payment, buy groceries or help a woman support herself and her family.”
—Cindy Monroe, Founder and CEO

For example, a consultant can add a contact on her phone and automatically sync that information to her back office. Additionally, the app aggregates information from multiple sources into one experience to give the consultant one place to get updates.

“We are keenly aware of the shift from laptops and desktops to a mobile-savvy sales field, and our expectations are to give her the tools she needs in this new world,” Dowding says. “Our sales field has been very excited and enthusiastic about this first release of our new app. Our expectations have definitely been met within the first 30 days. We’ve had great download activity and great in-app activity.”

Version 2 of the app, which was expected to be released at the end of July, will enhance the features that already include a Thirty-One information page, link to the catalog, contact list, order history, basic alerts, personal business dashboard and a sales tracker for the new consultants program Start Swell. This program helps each new consultant track her personal sales in her first 120 days of business to ensure that she has visibility of all the rewards she can earn in her unique earning period.

Cindy Monroe shares the event stage with sales consultants.

Leadership through Growth

While Cindy Monroe credits her team with Thirty-One’s success, the phenomenal growth experienced by the company and the processes and efficiencies put in place to handle that growth all come down to the person at the top of the ladder, and that is Monroe herself.

“I love to solve problems,” she says. “So it’s always easy to jump in and roll up my sleeves and coach a consultant or an executive.”

As her company continues to grow, Monroe will work near-term on growing new markets here in the United States and continuing to focus on the few things that make the biggest difference in helping the company realize its mission of helping women reach their greatest potential.

She says, “Long-term, I want to be a global company where an extra $300 a month goes further to help make a house payment, buy groceries or help a woman support herself and her family.”

The Critical Importance of Industry Research

by The USDSA and WFDSA Research Committee Leaders

Click here to order the August 2013 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.

Editor’s Note:  We recently asked the committee leaders of both the USDSA and the WFDSA Research Teams to share with us what they were doing in the area of industry research and what they hoped to accomplish with their work. Here is what they had to say.

Why Is Research So Important?

Industry Research is a topic most people don’t think much about, but in reality it is critically important to our everyday business. In fact, research provides a great many benefits, including:

    • Serving as a guidepost for strategic decisions.
    • Internally at companies, it gets everyone on the same page, both veterans and newcomers alike, by providing a common data set from which everyone can draw.
    • Providing industry benchmarks against which a company’s key performance indicators can be compared.
    • Dispelling myths and providing ammunition for fighting back against misstatements by industry critics.
  • Bringing a mission-critical understanding of the general public’s feelings and opinions on matters ranging from the personal service they get in the traditional retail environment to their trust of the direct selling industry as a whole.

Whether association and government affairs professionals are discussing the merits of direct selling with legislators, regulators and consumer protection groups, or whether communications professionals are presenting the industry to journalists, investment analysts and the general public, research is what provides the necessary data.

The diagram on this page illustrates this process. Strategy drives the research. The research informs those involved in government affairs and those involved in media and communications efforts. These and other professionals, in turn, use research and their professional knowledge to develop new strategies. And the cycle begins again.

The Challenge

DiagramIn the direct selling industry today, there are no credible syndicated sources for research, meaning market research studies conducted by a company then “packaged” and sold to multiple clients. For example, in the natural products sector, a research company called SPINS provides recurring reports on measureable key industry issues and opportunities. In the consumer packaged goods, retail and healthcare markets, a company called IRI provides a continual stream of research and analytics. This syndicated research is a critical element for driving common insights to executives in these industries.

In fact, managers in these industries receive reams of data—on a frequent basis—from which their teams can make strategic decisions informed by research. It is not uncommon for executives who come into the direct selling industry—particularly in the areas of strategic planning, marketing, product ideation and sales force development—to express amazement with this lack of syndicated research. As research team committee leaders, this is something we intend to remedy.

Recent Research Progress

In this absence of credible syndicated research within direct selling, we have to be the experts on our own industry. This is what the research teams are working towards; but it takes time—and most certainly it takes a village.

The Global Research Committee of the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations is a professional team of 16 including company research/analytics executives, industry association representatives, and an external third-party vendor who receives and aggregates data to maintain confidentiality.

This team works to gather, vet, analyze and report annual statistical data to “size the market.” Stats are collected on sales, sales breakdown by product category and by sales method, the number of those involved with direct selling, and who they are.

Since 2009, this team has worked to establish a standardized process for data collection with standardized definitions. As examples:

    • All countries now report at estimated retail level (rather than net sales/revenue).
  • The size of the entire direct selling industry in each market is assessed, rather than just the size of DSA member companies.

Confidentiality is key. All company data is received on a confidential basis and is only reported in the aggregate.

Collaboration is essential to this annual effort.

    • 60 member direct selling associations are involved, collecting data from hundreds and hundreds of member companies.
    • Beyond these 60 countries, the Research Committee researches the size and nature of direct selling.

Additionally, the Industry Research Committee of the United States Direct Selling Association has effectively raised the bar for credible research in recent years. The team has made progress toward creating an understanding of the state of the U.S. direct selling industry, a synthesized 360-degree picture that presents statistics and attitudes of direct selling consumers, member companies, and of direct selling entrepreneurs, both part- and full-time.

A new Research Manager has joined the team. Additionally, two external third-party research partners have helped:

    • Nathan Associates, a long-time DSA research partner, offers the expert view of an economist, coupled with formal research discipline.
  • Artemis Strategy Group brings knowledge of the strategic priorities behind our efforts and expertise in both primary and secondary research.

Current Research Projects

Moving Forward

Currently Serving on the Global Research Committee with WFDSA:

*Also serving on the Segmentation Task Force

  • Amy Robinson—USDSA
  • Andre Campos—Natura
  • Arlene Sarmiento—Avon*
  • Ben Gamse—USDSA
  • Bruce Peters—Herbalife*
  • Caroline Tointon—South Africa DSA
  • Chris Stubbs—Nu Skin
  • Dora Hoan—Best World International
  • JJ LeBlanc—Mary Kay*
  • Judy Jones—Amway*; Chair of the Committee
  • Marie Lacroix—SELDIA
  • Maureen Paniagua—WFDSA
  • Paul Bourquin—Nathan Associates
  • Sean Flynn—Nu Skin*
  • Tamuna Gabilaia—WFDSA
  • Truman Hunt—Nu Skin*

Currently Serving on the USDSA Industry Research Committee:

  • Amy Robinson—USDSA
  • Anne Aldrich—Artemis Strategy Group
  • Ben Gamse—USDSA
  • Daniela Farmache—Amway
  • JJ LeBlanc—Mary Kay; Chair of the Committee
  • Judy Jones—Amway
  • Randi Neiner—Shaklee
  • Steve Raack—BeautyCounter

While we believe we have made great strides on the research front, there is much more that remains to be done. As members of the direct selling community, we need to step up our game and be more competitive than other distribution channels such as franchising, e-commerce, direct mail and others.

As an industry, we are being called on to communicate more fully, more consistently, and more transparently. In our meetings, and when we report our annual statistics, we focus on how we benefit individuals, families, communities and societies. But some would argue that the connection to that benefit can’t—and shouldn’t—be measured on market size and sales data alone. To the general public, key opinion leaders, and yes even our critics, a strong Research/Communications collaboration will apply the evidence to tell the story of the trickle-down impact of every direct selling dollar earned.

More collaborative relationships can only strengthen what we do. For instance, we envision collaboration with the Direct Selling Education Foundation (DSEF) to bring added dimension to Research efforts.


    • DSEF champions consumer protection and consumer education and works with academic researchers who seek to understand the benefits of entrepreneurship to society.
    • Academia has made amazing contributions to our success as an industry: helping us understand how consumers shop; how micro-and macro-economic trends drive our business, and the economic impact of direct selling on societies, just to name a few.
  • The deeper we can go to partner with DSEF on research objectives, the better! By understanding their existing research landscape and generating new, original research, we can more accurately portray the intense concern our industry has for the people we work with and the communities where we do business.

Taking a global view is increasingly important. It’s “one world” out there in these days of cyberspace. Our DSA collaborations will become even more important than they are now. Gone are the days of focusing on “our own market.” Moving forward, we have to coordinate all the more on a cross-country, pan-world basis.

Only by everyone working together as one—one team, one industry, one world—do we make this vision a reality over time, and one step at a time. Because research is everybody’s responsibility.

To participate in the research process, please contact Ben Gamse for the USDSA and Maureen Paniagua for the WFDSA.