Direct Selling News Honors Oriflame Chief with 2016 Bravo Leadership Award

Photo: Magnus Brännström, CEO and President of Oriflame, addresses his direct selling peers at the 2016 DSN Global 100 Celebration. (Jason Kindig)


Direct Selling News on Thursday named Magnus Brännström, CEO and President of Oriflame, the recipient of the 2016 DSN Bravo Leadership Award.

Each year, the award goes to one direct selling executive who embodies exceptional leadership qualities—providing inspirational vision for their company, motivating their teams toward a common goal, serving others by equipping them to do the best job possible, and especially by empowering them to reach new heights.

Lauren Lawley Head, Publisher and Editor in Chief of Direct Selling News, and John Fleming, the publication’s Ambassador, presented the award to Brännström at the 2016 DSN Global 100 Celebration, held Thursday evening in Dallas. Brännström delivered the keynote address at the event, which marked the unveiling of the DSN Global 100, a list of the top revenue-generating direct selling companies in the world, as well as a regional subset of the list known as the North America 50.

This year’s Global 100, led by Ada, Michigan-based Amway, hail from 17 different countries and represent aggregate revenue of $82 billion. Under Brännström’s leadership, Oriflame has perennially ranked among the top companies on the list, and this year is no exception. The Swiss beauty company came in at No. 14 with annual revenue of $1.35 billion.

Brännström began his direct selling career in 1997, serving in executive posts in Russia, the Baltics and Asia as he worked his way up the corporate ladder. He became CEO of Oriflame, a legacy direct selling company, in 2005 and has continued to lead the business through a dynamic period of technological and geopolitical change. Oriflame now operates in 60 countries—Russia being its biggest market—through a network of more than 3 million consultants.

Like all Bravo Leadership honorees, among them Ambit Energy’s Jere Thompson and Amway’s Doug DeVos, Brännström has exhibited a vision for the future that extends beyond any one company. He is a fierce advocate for the direct selling channel as a whole, and former Chairman of the Board for Seldia, the European Direct Selling Association.

Oriflame CEO Talks Potential Expansion into U.S., Brazil

Expansion into the United States and Brazil could come in the not-too-distant future for Oriflame, the Swedish cosmetics maker that currently counts Russia as its largest market.

The Swiss company’s CEO, Magnus Brannstrom, who will keynote the DSN Global 100 Celebration in April, told Reuters that Oriflame is looking to enter the two major markets within a few years. In 2014, Brazil was the fifth-largest market for direct sales, according to the latest data from the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations. The market accounted for 7 percent of global revenue, trailing only the U.S. and Asia-Pacific powerhouses China, Japan and Korea.

The focus on new markets comes as Oriflame seeks to recover from turmoil in Russia and Ukraine, another key market. Brannstrom said he is “cautiously optimistic” about 2016, after the company’s mid-February report that local currency sales in the first quarter were up 9 percent from a year earlier. Management last month released fourth-quarter profits that beat expectations and discussed bringing back a dividend in the fourth quarter, after cutting the payout for the past two years.

As the company eyes the U.S. and Brazil, emerging markets will continue to drive growth in the long term, with China or India likely surpassing Russia as Oriflame’s biggest market, said Brannstrom. Turkey and Mexico also are top markets for the company, which sells its beauty products through more than 3 million Consultants worldwide.

Amway Reports Sales of $9.5 Billion in 2015

Photo above: Amway World Headquarters in Ada, Michigan.


Amway Corp. on Wednesday released its 2015 financial results, announcing annual sales of $9.5 billion.

Despite constant-dollar sales growth in 70 percent of Amway’s top 20 markets, revenue fell 12 percent from a year ago, hurt by currency fluctuations and soft sales in China, where the economy experienced its slowest growth in 25 years. The company reported similar trends in 2014, when revenue dropped 8 percent to $10.8 billion—a performance that nevertheless secured Amway the No. 1 spot on the 2015 DSN Global 100, a list of the top direct selling companies in the world.

In 2015, the company’s top 10 markets were China, South Korea, United States, Japan, Thailand, Russia, Taiwan, Malaysia, India and Ukraine. Management also singled out Brazil and Mexico as emerging markets that recorded considerable gains.

“We experienced growth in seven of our top 10 markets, and emerging markets in Latin America and elsewhere continue to perform well,” Chairman Steve Van Andel noted in Amway’s report. “Several markets achieved record sales levels in 2015 with others producing their best performance in some time. An increasingly competitive environment in China and unfavorable currency exchange rates mask a positive year overall for Amway globally.”

Nutrition remains a powerhouse category for the company, accounting for 46 percent of 2015 sales. Amway Nutrilite is the world’s leading brand of vitamin, mineral and dietary supplements, according to research by Euromonitor International, and the company last year expanded the line with BodyKey by Nutrilite, a personalized weight-management program. BodyKey utilizes a genetic test or comprehensive, scientific assessment to provide a tailored plan for managing weight.

Beauty and personal care products accounted for 25 percent of sales, and durable products, such as the company’s eSpring water treatment system and Atmosphere air treatment system, made up another 16 percent. The remaining 13 percent was split between home care products and assorted other offerings.

Last year also marked the culmination of Amway’s three-year manufacturing and R&D expansion. The company has poured $335 million into strengthening its global infrastructure, opening five manufacturing facilities and a major R&D site in 2015 alone. Other investments included new digital tools to help Amway Business Owners showcase products and manage their businesses.

In 2016 and beyond, Amway leadership sees plenty of cause for optimism, particularly in light of its 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Report. The report, based on a survey of 50,000 people in 44 countries, quantifies attitudes about business ownership and the entrepreneurial spirit.  All told, 75 percent of respondents were positive about starting a business, and that number increased to 81 percent among those 35 and younger.

“Globally, more and more people are seeking an opportunity to do something on their own—whether it’s to earn a little extra or for a bigger commitment to earn more,” said Doug DeVos, Amway President and Chairman of the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations. “We’re well positioned to meet that demand with a low-cost, low-risk business opportunity selling world-class products.”

Youngevity Targets Asia with Opening of Singapore Headquarters

Photo: Singapore’s Marina Bay.


Youngevity International is looking to build its business in Asia with the opening of a regional headquarters in the Republic of Singapore, the nutrition and lifestyle products maker said Thursday.

“We are proud to announce the opening of our office in the heart of Asia,” Youngevity CEO Steve Wallach said in a statement. “We chose Singapore because of its advanced, successful free-market economy, featuring an open and corruption-free environment.”

Additionally, Singapore’s central location and strong Asia Pacific manufacturing network provide a strategic “launch pad” into Southeast Asia, China and India, Wallach noted. The California-based company is planning a soft launch in November, followed by the official opening of the Singapore market in the first quarter of 2016. Youngevity’s Vice President of Asia, Ben Ho, will head up the new market.

Outside of operations in Russia, supported by a Moscow office, Singapore represents Youngevity’s first foray into Asia. After more than doubling revenue last year, the company is focusing on building international markets, which accounted for just 8 percent of 2014 sales.

Avon North America Sees Rare Profit in Second Quarter

Sales at Avon Products Inc. (AVP—NYSE) continued to decline in the second quarter, but the beauty company’s lagging North America division posted its first quarterly profit in several years, Avon said Thursday.

Second-quarter revenue fell 17 percent to $1.8 billion, weighed down by currency pressures in several foreign markets. On a constant-dollar basis, overall sales remained flat, with growth in Russia and the Philippines offset by declines in Brazil, China and the U.S.

The New York-based company reported adjusted earnings of 11 cents a share, surpassing the 7 cents predicted by analysts but dropping 20 cents from a year ago.

Heavy cost-cutting initiatives are paying off for the company in North America, where it saw a modest profit for the first time since the first quarter of 2012. Despite an improving bottom line, the number of Avon sellers in North America fell 16 percent from the second quarter of 2014. Overall, the brand’s salesforce shrunk by 2 percent from a year ago.

Avon said its expectations for the full year remain the same. The company forecasted modest constant-dollar revenue growth, with continued negative effects from currency exchange rates.

Youngevity Closes out 2014 with Record Revenue

Photo: Youngevity distributors kick off the year with an incentive cruise.


Youngevity International (OTCQX: YGYI) continued its double-digit growth streak in 2014 by more than doubling revenue, the company reported this week. The San Diego-area firm is setting its sights on international markets as it continues to expand its portfolio of nutrition and lifestyle products.

Youngevity reported 2014 revenue of $134.0 million, a 56.5 percent increase versus 2013. Revenue derived from acquisitions was $14.5 million. Net income increased to $5.4 million, up from $2.7 million in the prior year, largely due to a $4.7 million tax benefit from adjustments to deferred taxes.

“If I had to put a label on 2014, I would call it the year of refinement because we successfully refined nearly every key component of the company,” President Bill Andreoli told investors during the company’s earnings call. Throughout the year, Youngevity made improvements to its product warehousing and logistics system, website and online shopping experience, field training and recognition systems, and both its acquisition and organic growth strategies.

The company’s ongoing acquisition strategy has positioned it across the Health and Wellness, Beauty and Care, Food and Beverage, and Home and Family categories. This year Youngevity added energy services, including renewable energy options, through a partnership with Energy Professionals. In addition to its direct sales segment, Youngevity operates CLR Roasters, a vertically integrated gourmet coffee business.

Youngevity’s direct selling revenue grew 51 percent for the year, totaling $161.3 million, while the commercial coffee business grew 101 percent to $17.7 million. At year-end, total assets were $55.7 million, compared to $34.9 million at the close of 2013.

The company’s leadership says that in 2015 and beyond it will focus on establishing the brand across international markets, which accounted for just 8 percent of 2014 sales. Youngevity reports significant growth in Canada, its largest international market, as well as Australia and New Zealand, where it recently obtained a facility three times the size of the existing one to support demand in the region.

Recent expansions include Russia, where Youngevity has opened a Moscow office, and Singapore, where it hopes to build distribution within the Asian marketplace. Youngevity is also building a presence in Mexico with an eye toward additional Latin American countries.

Oriflame Consolidates Russia Operations in New Production Plant

Oriflame Cosmetics S.A. has completed another step toward streamlining its Russia business with the inauguration of a new production facility in Noginsk. The Swedish beauty and hygiene products group sold its production site in Krasnogorsk to consolidate operations in the turbulent market. The new facility dovetails with Oriflame’s strategy to focus and simplify its business amid geopolitical tensions in Russia and Ukraine.

The $170-million complex, including production facilities, warehousing and a LEED-certified distribution center, enables Oriflame to cut down on lead times and prices in Russia, where it draws a third of its business. The company has scrambled to increase prices in the region, and it anticipates further increases this year as the devaluation of the ruble continues to impact its core business. Oriflame has also retooled its compensation plan and ramped up promotion of its skincare and wellness offerings, particularly the brand’s daily skincare regimen and products sets.

“We continue our ambition of providing the most attractive offer in the markets—both when it comes to our beauty offer and business opportunity offer,” said Johanna Palm, Oriflame’s Senior Director of Investor Relations & Finance Projects, of the company’s strategy in Russia and Ukraine. “The improvements we have made to our compensation plan have definitely strengthened our position in the region, and will constitute a competitive advantage given the current challenges.”

In the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2014, Oriflame’s adjusted operating profit totaled 29.8 million euros ($33.7 million). Adjusted operating margin fell to 8.4 percent from 12.6 percent, slightly above the forecast. For 2014, the company posted net sales of 1.27 billion euros ($1.41 billion), down 10 percent from 2013 and up 1 percent in local currency.

Oriflame is working to counter economic uncertainties by working closely with its consultants and leaders and maintaining a well-managed product portfolio, said Palm. “This, in combination with price increases and administrative and organizational efficiency measures, should help us manage the challenges we see in CIS and Europe while ensuring continued strong momentum in Latin America, Turkey, Africa and Asia.”

Strategic Synergy: Creating Qivana’s Sustainable Future

by Beth Douglass Silcox

Company Profile

  • Founded: 2009
  • Headquarters: Provo, Utah
  • Founders: Derek Hall, Founder and CEO; Devin Glazier, Founder and Chief Financial Officer; Justin Banner, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer; Craig Johanson, Founder and Chief Marketing Officer
  • Products: Skincare and health and wellness

Qivana

In the decade after the millennium, the exploding market for an ever-healthier beverage sent network marketing companies clamoring for exotic, antioxidant rich fruits, most often found in remote island paradises. The most successful companies—marketing a large variety of antioxidant packed juices, health and wellness, and beauty products—invested millions in researchers trudging through remote jungles, in controlled labs, and in scientists who became jacks-of-all-trades and in-house product formulation teams.

It was within this space that a group of men, those who would eventually form Qivana, decided that they would not be in the product development business at all.

It seemed unlikely to this group of network marketing professionals that breakthrough products would emerge from an in-house team focused on a variety of formulations. So they opted for different path—one that has led Qivana to market four cutting-edge product lines, currently consisting of 21 products within the direct selling spaces of health and nutrition, as well as beauty and anti-aging.


Qivana owners (L to R): Justin Banner, Founder & CSO; Craig Johanson, Founder & CMO; Derek Hall, Founder & CEO; Devin Glazier, Founder & CFO

Qivana owners (L to R): Justin Banner, Founder & CSO; Craig Johanson, Founder & CMO; Derek Hall, Founder & CEO; Devin Glazier, Founder & CFO

 


Everyone Doing What They Do Best

Qivana’s product strategy focused on partnerships with published scientists and university researchers with 10, 20, maybe 30 years invested in health and wellness solutions. They reckoned that true breakthrough products were born in these labs and saw no need to put their own scientific “fingerprints” on any product. “Let the scientists and the universities and the researchers do what they do best, which is develop, formulate and research. Then allow us to do what we do best,” says Founder and Chief Marketing Officer Craig Johanson.Qivana products

Qivana would bring products into the direct selling channel, giving these scientists, researchers and formulators an effective avenue to reach consumers with their breakthrough products. Then, Johanson says, the company would “turn that product over to our field. Then we let them do what they do so well, which is put that product in front of people and share that message.”

Derek Hall, Devin Glazier, Justin Banner and Johanson sat around that planning table in 2008. Hall, once president and CEO for another nutritional company, found synergy with a former director of finance, Glazier, as well as other industry alums Banner and Johanson. Strategy and development was Banner’s forte, while marketing was Johanson’s focus.

By 2009 they had launched a new company they called Qivana.

Built to Last

“We have a really strong corporate team, made up of great leaders in the industry and some of the best athletes in the world,” says Banner, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer. “We brought on a top-notch scientist as our Chief Science Officer [Dr. Donald Layman] and brought product lines that we believe are some of the best in the world in their categories. We are confident in our products and our team, and we believe it’s a winning combination that plays out perfectly.”

But, perhaps, Qivana’s founders drafted their own success story when they methodically planned for long-term sustainability. Qivana’s focus is not on next month or next year, but rather decision-making to build a … Click here to read the full story at Direct Selling News.

Herbalife Shares Drop, but CEO Optimistic

Global health and wellness company Herbalife Ltd. (HLF—NYSE) reported its third quarter earnings on Monday after markets closed, disappointing investors with its earnings miss and a lower than anticipated fourth quarter outlook. Adjusted net income for the quarter was $125.1 million, or $1.45 per diluted share, compared to $152.1 million, or $1.41 per diluted share for the same period in 2013.

On the news, shares dropped 11 percent to $49.60 during after-hours trading, according to MarketWatch, and continued to fall to $44.26 by close on Tuesday. Wall Street expected earnings per share to come in at $1.51, up from $1.41 at the same time last year.

On a positive note, Herbalife reported net sales of $1.3 billion, reflecting an increase of 4 percent compared to the same period in 2013, and, according to CEO Michael O. Johnson, the quarter saw volume increases in two-thirds of the company’s 91 countries, especially Russia and China.

Johnson sought to allay concerns about the company’s forecast during its earnings call with investors on Tuesday. “While the third quarter represented a record level of net sales, our performance was below expectations, and this performance was clearly out of character for us,” Johnson said. “There was a confluence of factors—some external and some internal—that had an impact on our results. The main factors were Venezuela, FX and the short-term effect of structural changes that we are making to our business.”

Net income fell 92 percent to $11.2 million, or 13 cents a share, down from $142.0 million or $1.32 per diluted share for the same period in 2013. Third quarter 2014 reported net income was negatively impacted by $139.5 million in pre-tax charges, or 97 cents per diluted share after tax, related to the remeasurement of the Venezuelan Bolivar, and $17.5 million in pre-tax charges, or 13 cents per diluted share after tax, related to a legal reserve.

Guidance for fourth quarter FY 2014 included an unfavorable impact from currency rates of approximately 31 cents compared to the prior year, inclusive of approximately 22 cents from Venezuela. Guidance for FY 2015 includes a currency headwind of approximately 66 cents, including approximately 45 cents from Venezuela.

Read the full results here.

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.”