Direct Selling Day Brings More than 500 Distributors to Capitol Hill

Photo: Direct Selling Day participants gather outside the U.S. Capitol.


More than 500 direct selling entrepreneurs converged upon Washington, D.C., Thursday for the third annual Direct Selling Day on Capitol Hill. The U.S. Direct Selling Association (DSA) initiative is an opportunity for independent consultants to share with lawmakers the value of the business model, both to individuals and the economy.

Throughout the day participants from 32 states took part in one-on-one meetings with representatives and heard from congressional speakers from both parties. The event also featured a Direct Selling Marketplace in the Rayburn House Office Building, where Members of Congress and their staffs could see firsthand the kinds of products and services sold through direct selling companies. In a statement from the floor by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Co-Chair of the recently formed Direct Selling Caucus, the House of Representatives marked the occasion by formally recognizing Oct. 29, 2015, as Direct Selling Day.

“As a full-time student, direct selling provided me with the flexibility necessary to pay for college while in school,” Blackburn said of her own experience in direct selling. “Running my own business was an extremely rewarding experience and served as great preparation for my career in public service. It is a vibrant sector of the economy that embraces entrepreneurship and helps people achieve their American dream.”

Blackburn also emphasized the importance of the business ethics and consumer safeguards put in place under the DSA’s leadership. Those efforts were the topic of discussion at the DSA Global Regulatory Summit, held two weeks earlier in Washington, D.C. The summit brought together regulators, law enforcement officials, and industry leaders to explore various challenges facing direct selling companies, including issues raised by the Federal Trade Commission’s ongoing pyramid scheme lawsuit against Vemma Nutrition Co. and hedge fund manager Bill Ackman’s three-year short campaign against Herbalife Ltd. Both Direct Selling Day and the Global Regulatory Summit are part of what DSA President Joseph Mariano calls a “tapestry of communication and advocacy” the organization is weaving at the federal and state level to provide an accurate picture of direct selling.

“We want to have the important and sometimes difficult dialogue with regulators on issues that are of concern, but we also want to have this important conversation with lawmakers and policymakers, as a demonstration of who we are, and then we want to have involvement in the community by our member companies and members of the field,” Mariano told DSN. “It’s all of those things together, along with the day-to-day activities of the association and the Direct Selling Education Foundation (DSEF) that will end up, we trust, creating a positive understanding of direct selling and protecting and supporting us in the marketplace.”

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Direct Selling’s Strength in the World’s Billion Dollar Markets

by Andrea Tortora

Direct selling continues to gain ground worldwide, with global retail sales and the total salesforce both reaching record highs in 2014.

The World Federation of Direct Selling Associations (WFDSA) estimates that retail sales rose 6.4 percent to $182.8 billion in 2014, up from $171.8 billion in 2013, with all regions and three-quarters of direct selling countries posting gains. The total salesforce grew by 3.4 percent in 2014 to 99.7 million people, up from 96.5 million in 2013. All of which lights the stage for coming geographic shifts in market dominance.

“The most recent figures highlight the increasing opportunities that direct selling offers,” says WFDSA Chairman Doug DeVos. “Customers seek personalized service and quality products, and direct sellers are able to meet those needs in a way that is convenient and enjoyable. At the same time, people who aspire to earn a little extra or launch a full-time business venture are drawn to direct selling due to its flexibility and pay-for-performance structure.  It’s exciting to see more people, both customers and distributors, enjoying the benefits of direct selling.”

As part of WFDSA’s annual global statistics gathering, data is collected in local currency figures, which are then converted to U.S. dollars using 2014 exchange rates for all years. When comparisons are made to determine year-over-year change, this practice eliminates the impact of currency fluctuation, explains Judy Jones, Market Research Insights Leader at Amway and Chair of the WFDSA Global Research Committee. The 2015 report comes with an expiration date of May 2016, when the next year’s data will be published. For some markets, sales are estimated until the respective country reports its official figures to the WFDSA. At that time, actual data is restated and accounted for the next year.

These most recent figures confirm direct selling’s strength and its ability to keep reaching more people—as sellers and consumers—in all corners of the globe. The industry’s 6.5 percent three-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2011 to 2014 is evidence of that power.

The Top 5 countries account for 61 percent of all global sales. All but one report a positive CAGR (2011-2014):

  1. United States, 4.9 percent
  2. China, 18.7 percent
  3. Japan, -2.3 percent
  4. Korea, 8.1 percent
  5. Brazil, 6.7 percent

In all, 23 countries posted retail sales from direct selling of $1 billion or more in 2014. That group accounts for 93 percent of global sales from direct selling.

Leading the pack of the Top 5 countries once again is the United States, where the 2014 sales of $34.5 billion set a record and grew by 5.5 percent from the prior year. The U.S. CAGR for 2011 to 2014 is 4.9 percent. There are 18.2 million people who distribute products, up 8.3 percent from 2013. Nearly 75 percent are women, which means 14 million females are building their own businesses.


Overall estimated retail sales rose 6.4 percent to $182.8 billion in 2014, up from $171.8 billion in 2013.


Companies that are members of the U.S. Direct Selling Association (U.S. DSA) employ 55,300 people who are highly trained experts in their field. For example: 3,000 employees are science professionals, including chemists, biologists and engineers.

“Robust salesforce and revenue figures only tell part of the story behind direct selling’s success in the United States and around the world,” says Joseph N. Mariano, President of the U.S. DSA. “Our channel also provides …

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DSA Study Shows Industry Sales and Employment up in 2014

Direct selling companies are employing more Americans than ever before, according to the Direct Selling Association’s 2015 Growth & Outlook Report. The DSA announced the national survey data Monday at its 2015 Annual Meeting in San Antonio.

The results show that the number of individuals participating in direct selling increased 8.3 percent on an annual basis, surpassing 18 million (18.2 million) Americans for the first time. On that increased activity, retail sales volume among U.S. direct selling companies was up 5.5 percent to $34.47 billion.

“Direct selling is alive and well in communities across America and continues to grow at a solid pace, because millions of Americans want employment opportunities that allow them to work the way they want to,” said DSA President Joseph Mariano. “That’s why direct selling remains attractive to so many people—young parents, caregivers, military spouses, veterans, students, retirees and others—who appreciate opportunities to build a business on their own terms.”

The DSA partnered with economic consulting firm Nathan Associates to conduct the survey, based on data from 108 companies.

Wellness products continue to be the biggest sellers in the U.S., with 30.1 percent of total retail sales, climbing from 21.4 percent in 2007. Sales in the services category have also steadily increased, from 19.2 percent in 2010 to 23.1 percent in 2014.

Along with the new data, the DSA released its 2015 Top 20, a list of the leading direct selling companies based on U.S. revenue in 2014. The top companies appear in alphabetical order at www.dsa.org.

Direct Selling Association President Responds to NYT Op-Ed

Direct Selling Association President Joseph Mariano has a message for New York Times columnist Joe Nocera. Earlier this month, the opinion writer added to the abundant ink that has been spilled on the topic of activist investor Bill Ackman’s $1 billion Herbalife short. This week Mariano penned a Letter to the Editor addressing the questions raised by Nocera.

The salient question appears in Nocera’s headline: “Riddle of the Pyramids: What Is Herbalife?” He compares the volleys between Ackman and Herbalife, with its bullish investors behind it, to a “hotly contested political race”—very entertaining at times, but a sideshow to more serious issues. In Herbalife’s case, that issue is whether a company is duping millions of individuals through deceptive business practices.

It is a question currently under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice. Though the FTC declined to provide comment to the Times editorial page, Mariano gives some background on the regulations governing pyramid schemes in his response.

“There is no riddle,” Mariano writes. “Federal law and statutes in a majority of the states clearly define a pyramid as an operation that pays salespeople primarily for recruiting additional members into a network instead of selling products. The Federal Trade Commission further warns that pyramids may require members to buy large amounts of inventory, meaning you couldn’t consume it yourself, or unwanted items.”

Mariano also points to the clear distinction between the multilevel marketing business model and illegal business operations—a distinction that falls through the cracks of Nocera’s argument.

“We should consider the consequences to the individuals who sell and consume their products—and the communities their parent companies serve—before placing scarlet letters upon their legitimate businesses,” Mariano concludes.

12 DSA Candidates Win Congressional Seats

The Direct Selling Association backed 13 congressional candidates in the Nov. 4 election who have taken a strong stance on direct selling and entrepreneurialism. Twelve of the 13 candidates won.

The endorsements appeared across the country in a newspaper ad campaign funded by Direct Selling Empowers Americans, the newly formed super PAC associated with the DSA.

“We supported candidates on both sides of the aisle who stood with direct sellers and are pleased that nearly every DSA-endorsed candidate will go on to represent our interests in Washington, D.C.,” DSA President Joseph Mariano shared via email.

“We are hopeful that the next Congress will embrace entrepreneurialism and the pursuit of the American dream, and we look forward to working with members around the country to advance these goals on behalf of nearly 17 million Americans who create better lives for themselves and their customers through direct selling.”

In addition to Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford of Nevada, who lost his seat to Republican candidate Cresent Hardy, the DSA endorsed the following challengers and incumbents:

  • U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst (R-Iowa)
  • Congressional candidate Mia Love (R-Utah)
  • Congressional candidate Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.)
  • U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.)
  • U.S. Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.)
  • U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas)
  • U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.)
  • U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wisc.)
  • U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.)
  • U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Texas)
  • U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.)
  • U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.)

U.S. DSA Endorses 13 Congressional Candidates

As Americans head to the polls for early voting in October and Election Day on Nov. 4, the Direct Selling Association is backing 13 congressional candidates who have taken a strong stance on direct selling and entrepreneurialism.

“We want elected officials to understand that economic opportunity comes in many shapes and sizes,” DSA President Joseph Mariano shared in a statement. “The candidates we’re supporting this election cycle stand with direct sellers. That’s why we’re standing with them.”

The endorsements have appeared across the country in a newspaper ad campaign funded by Direct Selling Empowers Americans, the newly formed super PAC associated with the DSA. According to the PAC’s website, its efforts focus on enabling America’s 17 million direct sellers “to run their businesses—micro-enterprises—free from government constraints.”

The DSA has endorsed … Click here to see the rest of the story.

Billion Dollar Markets

by Andrea Tortora

Direct selling is an industry proving its mettle as it prepares to take advantage of major growth opportunities fueled by technology, increased entrepreneurial support and the new emerging market consumer.

Global estimated retail sales topped US$178 billion in 2013, up 8.1 percent from 2012, according to the most recent data from the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations (WFDSA). The worldwide salesforce also grew, up 7.2 percent to 96 million independent contractors. Both are record numbers.

In 2013 there were 23 countries with annual retail sales above $1 billion. That group accounts for 93 percent of global sales. Of special note is the industry’s 6.8 percent three-year cumulative growth rate (CAGR). The figures reinforce direct selling’s strength and show its potential, says Alessandro Carlucci, CEO of Natura Cosméticos and Chairman of the WFDSA. “The opportunity this industry has to really be even more powerful is in taking advantage of the fact that we are living in a moment in our society when technology is reinforcing relationships and allowing us to do more and better business,” Carlucci says.

STRONG SUSTAINABLE GROWTH

This most recent data clearly illustrates direct selling’s sustainable growth—especially in times of economic recovery and improved governmental policies to support entrepreneurship. Among the direct selling associations reporting their data to the WFDSA Research Committee, about three-fourths of the markets show solid, sustained growth in the three-year compound annual growth rate.

Here’s why that is important: “If the year-over-year percent change represents the snapshot, then the three-year CAGR represents the video and shows the long-term change or the trend. The sustained growth of direct selling is shown in a positive CAGR,” says Amway’s Judy Jones, Chairman of the WFDSA Global Research Committee.

Data is reported using constant 2013 dollars, to remove currency fluctuations from the equation. As more companies participate in sharing sales data with each country’s direct selling association (DSA), the entire industry begins to gain actionable knowledge it can use to enable sellers to better serve customers.


Global estimated retail sales topped US$178 billion in 2013, up 8.1 percent from 2012, according to the most recent data from the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations (WFDSA).


The sales of the 23 billion-dollar markets in 2013 are familiar to those who follow this annual ranking. The top five countries account for 60 percent of direct selling’s global sales. All but one report a positive CAGR:

1.  United States, 4.6 percent
2.  China, 23.3 percent
3.  Japan, -4.4 percent
4.  Korea, 8.0 percent
5.  Brazil, 8.6 percent

China moved into the No. 2 spot for 2013. If the current rates of growth in the United States and China remain steady, China could become the No. 1 direct selling market in the next year or two.

Interestingly, the billion-dollar markets that make up the bottom five show tremendous cumulative growth, particularly in emerging markets:

19.  Australia, 2.3 percent
20.  Venezuela, 15.7 percent
21.  India, 20.0 percent
22.  Philippines, 17.8 percent
23.  Indonesia, 12.0 percent


This most recent data clearly illustrates direct selling’s sustainable growth—especially in times of economic recovery and improved governmental policies to support entrepreneurship.


The numbers reinforce trends seen in the past two years. Direct selling is growing rapidly in the Asia Pacific region and Africa—dubbed the “new frontier” by Carlucci. Africa posted just over 9 percent year-over-year sales change for 2013, trailing only Asia Pacific at 12.6 percent.

“Africa is a place where everyone should put a seat now, because in 15 years it will be very relevant,” Carlucci says.

Following closely is the Central and South American region, which also posted just over a 9 percent year-over-year sales change. Six Latin American countries—Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Peru and Venezuela—are billion-dollar markets. More multinational companies are starting to do business in Central and South America, where consumers embrace direct selling.

POWERFUL NEW MARKETS

The desire to improve one’s socioeconomic standing remains strong in emerging markets, which translates to excellent growth potential for direct selling. In fact, seven of the billion-dollar markets with double-digit cumulative growth rates are emerging markets, according to the WFDSA data:

  • Argentina, 28.1 percent
  • China, 23.3 percent
  • India, 20.0 percent
  • Philippines, 17.8 percent
  • Venezuela, 15.7 percent
  • Indonesia, 12.0 percent
  • Colombia, 11.6 percent

Direct selling is a very relevant marketing and sales model for emerging markets, says Derrick Irwin, Portfolio Manager for the Wells Fargo Advantage Emerging Markets Equity Fund. In many of these countries, the retail industry is not fully developed and companies cannot put products on a Wal-Mart shelf. “There is also skepticism among consumers about counterfeiting and quality products,” Irwin says. “If items are being sold by someone they trust, it is powerful. The opportunities are very, very good.”

Companies like Avon know how important international markets are for growth. The global beauty direct seller derives 85 percent of its business outside the U.S., and 75 percent of revenues come from emerging markets, says CEO Sheri McCoy. Avon’s priority? Growing its top markets, which include: Brazil, United States, Mexico, Russia, Central Europe, Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, United Kingdom, Philippines, Turkey and South Africa.

China is also a huge market with infinite business opportunities. Leo Zhou, Deputy Director of Media Affairs at Mary Kay China, believes direct selling is a perfect match for China’s huge population, and that the interpersonal interaction at the industry’s core is quite effective in low-tier cities. He says, “It ensures that the direct selling industry could get into contact with female consumers in a faster and more precise way, thus promoting sales growth.”

Despite being a more mature market for the industry, Latin America is still a developing region with an entrepreneurial middle class that is seeking ways to maximize individual and household incomes, as demonstrated by the number of countries represented on the list, and growing activities in even more. Miguel Francisco Arismendi, Amway’s Director General for the Andean area, based in Bogota, Colombia, says, “There is no doubt that direct selling provides opportunity.”


“Africa is a place where everyone should put a seat now, because in 15 years it will be very relevant.”
—Alessandro Carlucci, CEO of Natura Cosméticos and Chairman of the WFDSA


EMERGING MARKET CONSUMERS

The world’s new consumers are a diverse group. Some are affluent and ready to spend their newly robust income on fulfilling their dreams and ensuring a better life for their children. Others are just beginning to realize their buying potential as they are exposed to the wealth of available products. The new middle class in Indonesia, India, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya are confident consumers who plan to buy more, save more and invest in education, according to research from Standard Chartered, a London-based international bank.

These emerging consumers have a wide range of incomes and a wide range of desires to follow, including such things as an appetite to travel and willingness to invest in a new car, and some can even consider buying luxury goods. In less developed markets, currency fluctuations and commodity prices impact the consumer spend. Wells Fargo’s Irwin says, “The problem in core countries is that so much of the family budget goes to food, so if those prices fluctuate that squeezes the budget for other things.”

Whereas an American will generally buy shampoo no matter what, in countries like India it may not be a regular purchase. To get around this hard economic truth, companies like Hindustan Unilever Limited offer single-use package sizes for the price of a rupee or two (2-4 US cents). “It takes creative marketing and strategies to really access these markets,” Irwin says.

Another example: In China, direct selling successfully advances the development of consumers’ personal-care habits in low-tier cities and stimulates their willingness to spend more on premium products. Consumers in fourth-tier cities spend an average of 220 yuan (about US$38) each year per capita at cosmetics stores, whereas in the direct selling channel, consumers spend 540 yuan (about US$88) each year. Mary Kay’s Zhou says, “This fully demonstrates the consumption potential of third-tier and below cities.”


The new middle class in Indonesia, India, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya are confident consumers who plan to buy more, save more and invest in education, according to research from Standard Chartered.


As emerging market consumers flex their collective spending muscles, a preference for local or domestically based brands is becoming evident. In the past 20 years, multinational brands dominated consumer brand preferences. As locally based companies achieve scale and develop their own brand strength, they are beginning to compete with multinationals. Irwin says, “Consumers are more open to buying local brands to support local businesses and show their pride in the local market.”

In China, where consumers have long aspired to acquire products with names like Gucci, Nike and other big Western brands, local brands are gaining market share as they fill a niche in the middle ground between the luxury and inexpensive brands. China-based Belle International is one of them. The company makes mid-range women’s shoes and is like the Nine West of China, according to Irwin.

In India, the domestic Godrej Consumer Products now claims more than $1 billion in revenue, taking a stab at the more established Hindustan Unilever. “They are getting to scale, and they are creating disruptions,” says Irwin. This bodes well for direct sellers, who build their business on micro-local enterprises and interpersonal connections.

EMPOWERING ENTREPRENEURS

At the heart of direct selling is the ability to offer people the chance to feel empowered, to take control of their lives and to add value to society. This fuels entrepreneurship, self-employment and microenterprises. Research shows that such ventures strengthen a country’s economy.

Alan Finkelstein Shapiro, a researcher at the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia, finds that “economies with larger self- employment shares exhibit faster recoveries following a negative economy-wide productivity shock.”

The entrepreneurial aspects of direct selling empower women and can be attractive to those under age 35 who more often want to be their own boss while also helping others. Sandra Whittle, Managing Director for Partylite U.K. & Ireland, says a favorite quote she shares with those new to direct selling is, “If at first you do succeed—try to cover your amazement.”

Whittle says consultants must be willing to put in the work because experience cannot be bought, and it is particularly important to earn the respect of colleagues and of the field.

Just as important is harnessing the excitement of those who want to be sales leaders, says Andrea Slater, with Avon U.K. “We need to ensure that we capture that enthusiasm within a specific timeframe,” she says. “Then, we need to fan the flames and keep them motivated, engaged and rewarded.”

Mary Kay’s Zhou says that in countries like China, business startups and entrepreneurship are becoming easier to navigate on the policy front, as well as becoming more accepted forms of livelihood for the younger generation. He continues, “Direct selling can help them to fulfill their dream of initiating businesses, and to gain earning opportunities and freedom with the thinking approach and behavioral model of their own characteristics, which constitutes a career development mode catering to the ideal of modern youths.”

For women, in particular, direct selling is an opportunity to contribute money to the household and develop a degree of independence. This is especially true in rural areas and farming communities. Irwin cites Hindustan Unilever Limited as an example. The Mumbai, India-based consumer goods firm employs 65,000 women through its Shakti direct selling initiative. These women sell products in their villages, giving Hindustan Unilever and the women themselves a huge economic opportunity they wouldn’t have otherwise.


Alan Finkelstein Shapiro, a researcher at the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia, finds that “economies with larger self-employment shares exhibit faster recoveries following a negative economy-wide productivity shock.”


THE YOUNGER GENERATION

As an industry, direct selling companies recognize the importance of recruiting young people under age 35 to become consultants as well as consumers of its products. Doing this means using a technology-rich approach and being socially responsible, says Amway’s Arismendi.

In Latin America, direct selling is equipping consultants with social media tools that enhance day-to-day communications. Amway is aggressive in studying tools that promote the use of technology in the field. “This will not replace the personal touch, but it will complement it,” Arismendi says. “Direct communication and social networking can be much more effective than conventional sales and retail.”

SPOTLIGHT ON REGIONAL MARKETS

UNITED STATES

The No. 1 market for direct selling saw 2013 retail sales of $32.7 billion, up 3.3 percent from 2012. Between 2010 and 2013, the compound annual growth rate was 4.6 percent in the country. The U.S. accounts for 18 percent of worldwide direct selling sales, generating about $1 for every $6 retail dollars globally.

The U.S. salesforce also grew 5.7 percent, to 16.8 million people, which is a record high. The most prevalent sales method is face-to-face, with 70 percent of consultants using this avenue, according to the U.S. DSA.

The product groups with the strongest percent of market share are wellness and services, making up 28.5 percent and 22.9 percent of sales, respectively. New segments are also using direct selling, such as energy, says U.S. DSA President Joseph Mariano. “Direct selling is a smart, go-to-market strategy for many products, especially those that benefit from explanation or demonstration. In the case of utilities, most Americans aren’t used to having a choice in their provider, so they benefit from guidance to make an informed decision.”


“Direct selling is a smart, go-to-market strategy for many products, especially those that benefit from explanation or demonstration.”
—Joseph Mariano, President, U.S. DSA


CHINA

Given current rates of growth, China will most likely surpass the U.S. in market size for direct selling, becoming the industry’s No. 1 market. Its 2013 retail sales were $27.3 billion, up an astounding 41 percent from 2012. China also enjoys the industry’s highest cumulative growth rate at 23.3 percent.

“With the acceleration of the global economic integration progress, China promises tremendous market potential as the second largest economy worldwide today,” says Mary Kay’s Zhou. U.S. direct selling giants Amway, Mary Kay and Nu Skin are among the largest companies operating in China. Several domestic Chinese direct selling enterprises also are a noticeable force. Competition across the country is moderate, with 44 licensed enterprises.

Cosmetics consumption keeps growing at an average annual growth rate of 15 percent, despite an overall economic slowdown. China trailed only the U.S. and Japan in consumer cosmetics spending in 2012. Women play a key role in those numbers and are increasingly active in economic consumerism. “As the number of employed women increases and their status in social and economic development rises steadily, their role in consumption is also becoming more prominent,” Zhou says.

Chinese women now control 60 percent of domestic consumption and make 77.5 percent of household purchase decisions. This far exceeds the purchasing power of men and children.

As China grows and becomes a more relevant market, the WFDSA’s Carlucci believes that the industry must put more energy into “understanding how we communicate and maintain the fundamentals of the industry” in a way that can be understood regardless of the country.


“…The recent statement from Esther McVey, Minister for Employment, saying, ‘Being your own boss is as impressive as a degree,’ appears to give more credibility to self-employment than ever before.”
—Lynda Mills, Director General, U.K. DSA


EUROPE

Direct selling continues to grow at a steady pace in Europe. Retail sales topped $31.6 billion in 2013, and 12.7 million people work as independent consultants across Western, Central and Eastern Europe. “Europeans have embraced the entrepreneurial spirit and increasingly recognize direct selling as an appealing (and sometimes preferable) alternative to a traditional job,” says Marinda Chaplin, Vice President at SUCCESS Partners Europe.

As recovery continues from the economic recession, the U.K. is seeing more encouraging trends, especially in the area of self-employment. Lynda Mills, Director General of the U.K. DSA, shares that recent information from the Office for National Statistics reveals self-employment is at its highest level in 40 years with 4.5 million people. “This, coupled with the recent statement from Esther McVey, Minister for Employment, saying, ‘Being your own boss is as impressive as a degree,’ appears to give more credibility to self-employment than ever before,” Mills says.

Mills reports that during the recent recessionary years, direct selling in the U.K. has seen year-on-year growth in a variety of demographics, and some direct sales companies are enjoying double-digit growth. With young people being notoriously risk adverse, direct selling is an ideal option for people in many age ranges and from varied backgrounds.

“We have seen more young people between 18 and 25 working in direct selling with 29 percent (75,000) of U.K. direct sellers under age 25,” Mills says. On average, 38 percent of direct sellers are over age 50, representing a rise of more than 32,000 people since 2011.

Direct selling is also increasingly appealing to a multi-cultural audience. In a recent survey of its members, the U.K. DSA discovered that 30 percent of direct sellers (120,000 people) in the U.K. are non-British. DSA member companies attribute this to a rise in interest of people from places like Asia and Eastern Europe, according to Mills.

People in the U.K. are turning to direct selling as a real alternative to traditional employment, with 68,000 direct sellers (17 percent) working full-time hours (more than 30 hours a week). This is up 20,000 from 12 percent in 2011. “Direct selling here in the U.K. really has entered the mainstream,” Mills says.

One factor in the sustainability of the industry is the increasingly digital nature of the world economy. Technology enhances the core aspect of direct selling. Embracing the digital age can ignite new growth in mature markets like the United Kingdom, which enjoys a 10.4 percent three-year compound annual growth rate and reported $3.3 billion in 2013 retail sales.

Germany posted a three-year CAGR of 5.8 percent. The direct selling model enjoys a positive image in the country, says Guido Amendt, Mary Kay Germany’s Director of Marketing. He adds that a sustainable increase in purchasing power per capita offers opportunities for consumers to buy high-quality products through direct selling.

In France, direct selling continues to grow regardless of the economic climate. When it comes to increasingly competitive markets such as cosmetics and jewelry, direct selling leverages innovation as a growth solution, says Jean-Laurent Rodriguez, Director of Communication and Training for the Federation de la Vente Directe, France’s DSA. In 2013, France recorded sales of $5.3 billion. The country’s cumulative annual growth rate between 2010 and 2013 was 3.4 percent.

Continued expansion in the industry is driven by several factors. France is enjoying a growing number of new companies with new brands and new products, such as textiles, shoes, home decoration, gastronomy and health care, Rodriguez says. These companies are international and national industrial groups, medium-sized companies and startup firms. Agreements between the Federation de la Vente Directe and government ministries (higher education, national defense and public institutions) ensure that direct selling is a viable option.

AFRICA

The WFDSA’s Carlucci sees Africa as an interesting continent right now for direct selling although, currently, the only DSA exists in South Africa. South Africa’s 2013 retail sales were $720 million, and its three-year cumulative growth rate is 6.8 percent. “Direct selling is very relevant here because it is a way to be an entrepreneur, and other retail channels are not developed,” Carlucci says.

Multinational companies are taking interest in the continent, says Wells Fargo’s Irwin. That’s because it is a huge market. Irwin cites Nigeria as an example. The country is home to 180 million people and just 10 supermarkets. “The rest are local markets and product distribution via trusted networks,” Irwin says.

LATIN AMERICA

Central and South America are comprised of fast-growing countries known for their entrepreneurship culture. Ernst & Young, in its G20 Entrepreneurship Barometer 2013, ranks Argentina, Brazil and Mexico as some of the best world economies for entrepreneurs. The same can be said for the region’s direct selling prospects. The industry is well established in Latin America, where customers like to buy from people they know. Additionally, it is a market with potential because retail is not well developed in many regions.

Latin America’s direct selling billion-dollar markets are:

  • Brazil, $14.2 billion
  • Mexico, $8.1 billion
  • Colombia, $3.3 billion
  • Argentina, $1.9 billion
  • Peru, $1.9 billion
  • Venezuela, $1.4 billion

In Latin America, the “family factor” is very important and makes direct selling attractive as a self-employment option. Unlike in the U.S., children look to go to college close to home and remain with their families. Many career decisions center on one’s family, which makes direct selling attractive as a source of income in addition to traditional employment.


“Direct selling is an opportunity to work but remain close to the family and to have additional income for the needs of the family. So this makes a difference. There is flexibility and management of their own time.”
— Miguel Francisco Arismendi, Director General for the Andean area (of South America), Amway


“Direct selling is an opportunity to work but remain close to the family and to have additional income for the needs of the family,” Arismendi says. “So this makes a difference. There is flexibility and management of their own time.”

Direct selling is also becoming a full-time work option, says Pio del Castillo, Mary Kay’s Manager of Corporate Communications. Brazil ranks No. 5 among the industry’s billion-dollar markets. Direct selling retail growth in the country is related to the economic recuperation of international markets, del Castillo says. The country posted year-over-year retail sales growth of 7.2 percent, making for a three-year CAGR of 8.6 percent. The number of sellers grew as well, reaching 1.3 percent, to 4.5 million.

Brazil also boasts a diverse market with access to information. One important factor boosting direct selling in the region includes traditional retailers such as O Boticario adding direct selling to their marketing efforts. Del Castillo says, “The Brazilian economy grew only 2.3 percent in 2012, but Brazil still remains one of the most important players in the direct sales market.”

 

TECHNOLOGY, DATA WILL FUEL FUTURE GROWTH

Technology in all its forms is an essential ingredient to the future growth of direct selling, according to industry executives and economists. “The Internet and digital technologies, mobile devices, social media and access to more robust data will allow direct selling companies to dramatically increase the level of service they offer to their salesforce and customer base,” says Alessandro Carlucci, CEO of Natura Cosméticos and Chairman of the WFDSA.

“We will be able to (and some companies now can) know who the final customer is, what their preference is, who the distributors are and how can we help them with good CRM systems and analytics,” Carlucci says.

Better information lets consultants individualize their service and marketing approach for each customer. Instead of a mass-appeal catalog, direct sellers could offer targeted online videos in an effort to deliver the right thing for the right customer. “We can skip the segmentation phase and leap frog from a mass approach to an individual approach, thanks to technology,” Carlucci says. “To me this is a revolution.”

The ability to harness technology’s benefits leverages relationships, according to Carlucci, who adds, “These efforts should also boost direct sales in mature markets because it will present newly available services.” The consumer’s direct selling buying experience could be even better than the Internet because of the product and experience support the personal connection offers.
 
The importance of the Internet, data and mobile Internet to emerging markets cannot be overstated, according to Derrick Irwin, Portfolio Manager for the Wells Fargo Advantage Emerging Markets Equity Fund. He says, “In many places it provides the only access to media and outside data that many people have.”

Consumer company models being developed in India, China and Brazil show a massive portion of advertising spend being allocated for mobile campaigns. And the marketing method is about to explode. Smart phones and 3G networks are established in China and are just beginning to take off in Brazil and India. In Africa, says Irwin, “there is no other way to talk to people. You can go to these countries where there are the poorest of the poor, and they are using mobile phones in ways that are so creative.”

In China, mobile technology is opening new markets and acting as a catalyst for the development of logistics networks into the far corners of the country’s low-tier cities, according to Leo Zhou, Deputy Director of Media Affairs at Mary Kay China. He says, “Consumers are becoming increasingly smart and are unprecedentedly connected with multiple media, being surrounded by a diversified web of information.”

The proliferation of information across the Internet, as well as easy access to it, makes it simple for any consumer to get the information and products they need and want. The rapid expansion of China’s e-commerce network into low-tier cities caught the attention of logistics companies, who brought their services to the same areas. According to Zhou, this increases product delivery speed and lowers operational costs.

All of these technology changes amount to a modernizing of the direct selling industry in the digital age. Companies should be looking at how much they are investing now to leverage the relationships they have and how they understand consumer behavior. “There are a lot of good questions we should be able to answer, and this is the time,” Carlucci says. “In 10 to 15 years we will live in a very different world. We need to take advantage of the technological opportunities now.”

Second Annual ‘Day on the Hill’ Connects Direct Sellers, Policymakers

More than 400 independent direct selling consultants gathered in Washington, D.C. today for the Direct Selling Association’s second annual Direct Selling Day on Capitol Hill. Representing 28 companies and 30 states, the participants met with members of Congress to share personal stories of how direct selling has helped them create a better life.

Direct Selling Day on the Hill is a part of the DSA’s effort to effectively communicate the industry’s positive impact and secure vital political influence—two of the objectives laid out by DSA Chairman Truman Hunt at the beginning of his tenure.

DSA President Joseph Mariano spoke to DSN from Capitol Hill, where five members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, had spoken with the group about independence and entrepreneurship.

“We are thrilled that these individuals are giving Congress an appreciation of people in the field, because the real point of the day is to provide a backdrop for their successes and their challenges in daily life and in their businesses,” said Mariano. “We’re not here today to talk about specific legislation or ask for any funding. It’s about building relationships between the field people and members of Congress.”

About 90 direct sellers represented the industry at last year’s inaugural Day on Capitol Hill. This year’s participation has edged above 435, the goal set by the DSA to match the number of representatives in Congress.

“We’re bringing our own direct selling ‘congress’ to meet with representatives and share the ways that direct selling has personally impacted their lives,” Mariano shared.

In addition to meeting with members of Congress, participants have the opportunity to sign the Direct Selling Proclamation and Compact, which helps demonstrate to policymakers the economic and social impact of direct selling.

Companies across the industry can follow up on today’s initiative by encouraging their salespeople to sign the Proclamation, donating to the DSAPAC, and reaching out to their local, state and federal officials. The DSA also works with companies interested in hosting policymakers at visits to their headquarters.

BurnLounge Roundup: Unpacking the Ninth Circuit Decision

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This month the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit passed down a long-awaited decision in the case of FTC v. BurnLounge Inc. The Federal Trade Commission brought a pyramid complaint against the New York City-based company in 2007.

Digital music seller BurnLounge positioned itself as a breed of network marketing company that enabled independent retailers to sell music through online “BurnPages.” The company’s labyrinthine compensation plan included multiple income opportunities, with extra incentives based upon the sale of premium packages rather than actual merchandise.

The recent ruling upholds a 2012 judgment barring the defendants from operating a pyramid scheme and ordering the payment of $17 million in damages. The opinion provoked a flurry of related opinions on its implications, for Herbalife in particular and direct selling in general. We’ve rounded up commentary from industry legal experts and other interested parties to provide a better understanding of the precedent established in BurnLounge.

 

 

 

  • Pershing Square Responds to Recent Ruling in ‘FTC v. BurnLounge Inc.’ “The notion that the Ninth Circuit’s decision is a vindication of Herbalife is absurd. The case certainly does not support Herbalife’s position that sales of products to distributors who tried—but failed—to succeed in their pursuit of the Herbalife business should be regarded as true retail sales.”

 

  • BurnLounge Appeal Decision by MLM attorney Jeffrey Babener “[TheBurnLounge decision] will dramatically impact the landscape of direct selling to provide guidance on two fundamental legal issues: (1) What activity constitutes a pyramid scheme? (2) What is the role of ‘personal use’ (by distributors) in pyramid case analysis?”

The BIG HISTORY of Direct Selling

by J.M. Emmert

Click here to order the June 2014 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.

IN THIS ISSUE:

• The BIG HISTORY of Direct Selling • 10 Things to Know • The List 
• Topping the Charts • Profiles • Celebration

BRAVO AWARDS: 
• Leadership • Growth Based on Percentage • Growth Based on Revenue •Humanitarian


DSN Global 100

This past November the History Channel’s sister station H2 aired Big History, a 17-part narrative on the history of Earth. The program culminated with a look at the critical events that shaped life on this planet, from the Big Bang to the social transformations of the modern era. Like the history of the universe, the story of direct selling reveals paradigm-shifting events and thresholds that have fundamentally changed the industry and helped to shape today’s direct seller.

So we wondered: What were those moments? What would be the “Big History” of direct selling? The following are the five thresholds we identified.

Threshold No. 1—The First Direct Selling Companies

There was no Big Bang moment for direct selling, no moment when out of nothing everything began. The industry, the oldest distribution channel in history, began appearing alongside the development of civilizations. As hunter-gatherers settled down to farm and build towns, the first direct sellers began to sell their wares across Europe, Africa and Asia.

The bartering of commodities evolved into a vast network of trade, and by the 18th century the direct-to-consumer channel of distribution had reached the United States in the form of the Yankee peddler, solitary figures who roamed the countryside bringing goods to isolated areas of the population. But it would be another century before the first direct selling company was established. In 1855, Rev. James Robinson Graves developed a business model that had young men going door to door to sell products, forming the basis of the company known today as Southwestern.

Nearly 160 years later, direct selling engages more than 16 million people in the United States and nearly 100 million people around the world, with 22 billion-dollar global markets. Direct selling companies are committed to not only bringing quality products to the global audience, but also a quality of life that can, and does, change lives.

“More than 3 million Independent Beauty Consultants around the world share Mary Kay’s message of hope—‘If you can believe it, you can achieve it!’ ” says Sheryl Adkins-Green, Chief Marketing Officer of Mary Kay. “Through Pink Changing Lives®, Mary Kay has a commitment to changing the lives of women and children around the world, encouraging them to believe in themselves and pursue their dreams to transform, inspire and empower our future.”

The popularity of direct selling continues to grow. In a recent Harris Poll commissioned by Direct Selling News, nearly one-third of U.S. adults have purchased from a direct seller in the past six months, with 42 percent taking advantage of doing so online. That technology has allowed newer companies to reach more customers far quicker than the old days of walking the countryside.

“It Works! is a customer-generating machine,” says Mark Pentecost, CEO of It Works! Global. “We encourage our distributors to gather customers, and we provide a Loyal Customer Program with perks to retain customers. This opportunity forms the foundation for a business that gives everyday people hope that they can change their lives and leave a legacy for their families.”

Threshold No. 2—Women Are Welcomed

In the history of the universe, stars became the building blocks for life. And in the history of direct selling, the points of light that became the building blocks of the industry were women.

David McConnell’s decision to recruit women as sales representatives for his California Perfume Co. might have been a big, bold statement for the times. Yet it just made sense to McConnell when he saw the natural ability of women to network and market to others. Mrs. Persis Foster Eames Albee became the company’s first representative, and today more than 6 million Avon representatives are following in her footsteps, benefiting from McConnell’s belief that women could be the most important component of the direct selling channel.


“[Our Founder David H. McConnell] understood that women were natural salespeople who could easily relate to other women and passionately market beauty products.”
—Sheri McCoy, CEO, Avon Products Inc.


“In 1886, our Founder David H. McConnell recognized that women were rarely offered the opportunity to earn their own income,” says Avon CEO Sheri McCoy. “He also understood that women were natural salespeople who could easily relate to other women and passionately market beauty products. The notion that women deserve the opportunity to support themselves and their families is a cornerstone on which [Avon is] built.”

The role of women in the industry has greatly evolved from the days when the legendary Mrs. Albee traveled the Northeast by horse and buggy. Mary Kay Ash, Brownie Wise, Mary Crowley and Jan Day were strong role models whose business savvy and sincere desire to see their contemporaries succeed empowered 20th-century women and inspired a legion of today’s female leaders.

That group includes Thirty-One Gifts’ Founder and CEO Cindy Monroe, Scentsy’s Co-Founder and President Heidi Thompson, Rodan + Fields President Lori Bush, Isagenix’s Co-Founder Kathy Coover, and The Pampered Chef’s CEO Doris Christopher, who believe that being a woman is an advantage to running a direct selling company.

In fact, if you look at the Global 100 companies, you will find that nine of the 29 U.S. companies in the Top 50—31 percent—are led by women who were either co-founders or who serve as president or CEO. And it is these women who are bringing their opportunities to other women around the globe, especially in developing countries where women are expressing sentiments similar to what Mrs. Albee wrote to David McConnell 130 years ago: “I know of no line of work so lucrative, pleasant and satisfactory as this,” she said.


DSN Global 100 DSN Global 100

Threshold No. 3—The Formation of Direct Selling Associations

In 1910, McConnell’s California Perfume Co. joined with nine other companies from New York, Massachusetts and Michigan to form the Agents Credit Association, which today is known as the U.S. Direct Selling Association. It was the first such association to focus on the needs of direct sellers.

Back then, the Association was charged with collection and credit matters; today, the DSA represents 200 member companies and works to further promote the impact of direct sellers under the guidance of President Joseph Mariano.

“One of the most important accomplishments for DSA has been the mobilization of many different types of companies by recognizing and supporting their mutual interests,” Mariano says. “DSA can act on behalf of companies and individual sellers to ensure a fair and open marketplace. Because we determine our course of action based on the merits instead of special interests, we have a virtually unblemished record of defeating legislation that would be harmful to direct sellers, and have worked constructively with many states in passing anti-pyramid legislation that helps lawmakers identify and prosecute scams while protecting legitimate companies.”


“We will continue to help policymakers, prospective sellers and others gain a fuller understanding and appreciation of direct selling.”
—Joseph Mariano, President, U.S. DSA


According to Mariano, the DSA will continue to work collaboratively with companies to maintain unity of message and purpose in all its activities. “We will continue to enhance the high standards of marketplace behavior the public should expect from direct sellers, and we will continue to help policymakers, prospective sellers and others gain a fuller understanding and appreciation of direct selling,” he says.

Today more than 60 countries have direct selling associations. Seldia—the European Direct Selling Association—represents 27 DSAs, including those from the U.K., Germany, France, Belgium and Italy, which were the first European countries to establish national associations. Since 1968, Seldia has been an authoritative voice for direct selling in European government affairs.

“New laws and regulations are now made with input from Seldia, and a growing number of policymakers have a favorable and supportive view on direct selling,” says Maurits Bruggink, Executive Director of Seldia. “With the increasing appreciation of entrepreneurship in Europe, Seldia wants to grow the importance of direct selling in the coming years and ensure that our sector is known for the opportunities it creates for individuals of every walk of life, the wealth it generates to society, and the high level of ethics in trading.”

A decade after the formation of Seldia, which at the time was known as the Fédération de la Vente et du Service à Domicile (FEVSD), the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations was established. The WFDSA is a non-governmental entity that represents national direct selling associations around the globe and works to promote the highest global standards for responsible and ethical conduct. Alessandro Carlucci, CEO of Brazil-based Natura, is the current Chairman of the WFDSA, and has diligently worked to build the reputation of the industry.

“The WFDSA was born to reinforce ethical standards and to disseminate the positive social impact of the direct selling model,” says Carlucci. “The Federation aims to promote an ethical debate in the sector considering the significant changes happening in an increasingly connected world. In other words, we seek to be every day more in sync with the aspirations of contemporary society—more connected, more active, more social. Since the energy of our people is what moves our business model, we pursue to deeply understand them and to focus on their needs. That is what makes our advocacy efforts relevant to governments and key influencers.”

Threshold No. 4—Compensation Structure

For decades, direct sellers had been compensated on a performance-based model where earnings were tied to personal sales. Then, in the mid-1900s, a revolutionary approach for compensation was developed that would allow representatives to benefit beyond their personal selling efforts. Amway was one of the first companies to adopt the new structure.

According to Amway, many people assume that the Amway business model was introduced in 1959, when Jay Van Andel and Rich DeVos founded the company. However, the company’s roots go deeper than that. Nutrilite Founder Carl Rehnborg is often credited as the father of both plant-based food supplements and the sales plan that served as the model for Amway.

This new compensation plan was actually the invention of William Casselberry, whom Rehnborg had met in a Dale Carnegie course, and Casselberry’s friend Lee Mytinger. In 1949, Jay and Rich became two of the top Nutrilite distributors and were introduced to that compensation plan, which allowed them to earn based on their own efforts and those of others they trained as Nutrilite sales reps. Without Rehnborg, Mytinger and Casselberry, Amway might not have been guided by the business plan that has served it well for 55 years.

Today, nearly 90 percent of the 2013 DSN Global 100 companies utilize this compensation structure.

DSN Global 100

Consumer Goods and Services Offered through Direct Selling

PRODUCTS

  • Arts & Crafts
  • Beauty
  • Fashion & Accessories
  • Cosmetics
  • Educational
  • Food & Beverage
  • Food Storage
  • Home Care
  • Home Décor & Fragrances
  • Jewelry
  • Kitchenware & Cookware
  • Nutritional Supplements
  • Personal Care
  • Relationship Enhancements
  • Travel
  • Weight Management
  • Wellness

SERVICES

  • Energy
  • Financial Planning & Investing
  • Health Insurance
  • Home Security
  • Legal Representation
  • Life Insurance
  • Natural Gas
  • Telecommunications

 

Threshold No. 5—Evolution of the Sales Method

The direct selling model has evolved because the world has evolved. The industry has adapted to changes because it can, as life itself can, store information, reproduce itself, pass information along and multiply.

One of the greatest changes in the industry was the party plan model, believed to have been created by Brownie Wise when she was with Tupperware. But perhaps no event in the history of direct selling has caused more of a paradigm shift than the emergence of technology. And here’s why. As Big History explained, during the era of the steam engine, it took 150 years for man’s collective knowledge to double. Today, it takes two years. By 2020, it will take 72 hours.

“We not only embrace, but innovate with the tools and technology now so abundantly available,” says Rick Stambaugh, Chief Information Officer of USANA. “The world is shifting. Mobility will prove to be the game changer, especially when it comes to prospecting. Everyone has a smartphone, which gives us a much broader reach. Apps will become a preferred means of engagement, and we are actively updating and developing several to stay ahead of the curve. In fact, for over 20 years, our focus has been on personalization. Some may say technology is contradictory to that, but it’s not. Being able to profile yourself and get answers specific to you is not only cool, but is the wave of the future.”

Stambaugh adds that as for transaction technology, the method of spending is rapidly shifting from a storefront platform to a greater web-based structure, as e-commerce becomes widely accepted and trusted. “It has certainly moved the needle on our ROI,” he says. “Then there is social media, which is less than 10 years old, but look what it has done already in the realm of awareness. These days you can’t run a successful business without being social media savvy. Even social commerce is catching on, although still in its infancy. And though the direct sales industry is becoming more high-tech, it’s still important to remain ‘high-touch’ in keeping customers satisfied and the salesforce motivated. You have to stay connected to those you serve and develop an interpersonal presence in a high-tech world.”


“Though the direct sales industry is becoming more high-tech, it’s still important to remain ‘high-touch’ in keeping customers satisfied and the salesforce motivated.”
—Rick Stambaugh, Chief Information Officer, USANA


Avon’s McCoy agrees to a certain degree. “While the biggest game changer is technology and how we use it, the backbone of our business hasn’t changed,” she says. “Our representatives continue to build relationships and have a passion for products, and our business is still high-touch, even though it’s now high-tech too. Customers can connect with their representatives in person, over the phone, via email or through social media. While the world is a different place today than when Avon started, it is the personal touch that connects our customers to our representatives.”

Adds Douglas Franco, General Manager for Belcorp USA, “I believe technology just changes the way our relationships work, but does not change their nature. It’s a trust-based purchase, which only becomes more transparent and democratic with technology.”


“I believe technology just changes the way our relationships work, but does not change their nature. It’s a trust-based purchase, which only becomes more transparent and democratic with technology.”
—Douglas Franco, General Manager, Belcorp USA


The Future

History teaches us that we have the ability to seize our evolution, and that the triumph of our collective learning is the ability to adapt. We learn to survive in the most challenging conditions. We seize the opportunities to continually move forward.

What will be the next threshold for direct selling? That remains to be seen. In the next century this industry may not even be known as “direct selling.” As new technologies and forms of communication are developed, a new term may come to apply to what it is direct sellers do, just as the term “social selling” is gaining traction today.

This year, the DSN Global 100 list revealed that 18 companies increased their 2013 revenue by more than $100 million, clear evidence that the business model can thrive in a time of economic uncertainty.

Additionally, new companies such as Origami Owl, Nerium International, Plexus Worldwide and Solavei, along with a host of others, continue to bring fresh ideas and methodologies to the marketplace. These new ideas, combined with advanced technology, placed alongside a highly successful and long-standing business model, will open up possibilities that we can only guess at today. The future is promising!