Locals still find success with direct sales

In direct sales, numbers reflect economic times

Susan Redd, who tried several direct-sales companies over the years, has found success selling jewelry for Texas-based Premier Designs Inc. for the last three years.


Jewelry is a top seller in the direct-sales industry because it’s easy to promote, Redd said. The Aiken woman simply wears her product, and when she receives compliments, she tells people about the jewelry line.

In the last four weeks, Redd said, she has signed up four new sales associates because “people are looking for opportunities to make extra income.”

Nationally, there’s a slight decline in the number of people involved in the direct-sales industry. According to 2010 data by the Direct Selling Association, just under 16 million people in the United States are involved in direct sales, for companies such as Avon and Mary Kay.

At the height of the recession, people joined direct-selling companies in droves, said Amy Robinson, the chief marketing officer for the Direct Selling Association.

“When you have a poor economy, you have a lot of people who are looking for additional sources of supplemental income,” Robinson said. “We generally look at direct selling as a leading indicator both of a poor economy, because there are a lot of people getting into direct selling, as well as a recovery, because you have some of those people stop direct selling because they’ve either achieved their goals, found a new job or feel a little more secure with their financial situation.”

Data for 2011 will be released later this month. Robinson anticipates a slight decrease in the sales force. The association also noticed this trend in 2010.

The association usually sees an “increase in productivity per direct seller” during a poor economy because most people who join then are more focused on earning income, she said. U.S. direct retail sales reached $28.5 billion in 2010.

Bertha Lindsay, of Augusta, a senior sales director for Dallas-based Mary Kay, has been selling Mary Kay products for 29 years. In the last two years, her sales have been up 8 percent.

She said she worked harder because of the economy and got positive results.

Through Mary Kay, Lindsay earns six figures a year and has received a pink Cadillac as a reward for her sales. She oversees a team of 204 people in 17 states. The team will earn its 13th pink Cadillac by the end of the year.

Of the 1,500 direct-sales companies in the U.S., jewelry companies have performed the best, followed by cosmetics. Robinson said that people like “little things that make them feel good, even when they’re watching their budget.”

These products also offer opportunities for home parties, which can be fun for family and friends because people aren’t going out as much, she said.

Cathy Johnson, of Augusta, tried four other direct-sales companies over the years, from beauty products to cookware, before finding success in the last year with Meridian, Ind.-based Scentsy, which sells scented, flameless candles.

“I’ve tried other direct-sales businesses, and I usually did not last more than three months at the most. But with this company, my sales have just continued to grow since the very beginning,” Johnson said.

Her goal is to sell at least $1,200 a month, so she can supplement her income with $300 in commission, which will go for her car payment. She surpassed her goal and sold $3,200 in March, her biggest month to date. She earns 25 percent of sales.

Already, she has risen three ranks with the company and plans to be a director. She has a team of eight under her, she said.

“I have a passion for the product, so it’s easy to sell something you’re passionate about. The product sells itself. When people smell the scents and they see the warmers, they order,” she said.

Johnson noted there is an oversaturation of local consultants for certain direct-sale companies.

“I still meet a lot of people who have never heard of Scentsy. It’s encouraging to me because that means there’s still a market out there that needs to be grabbed,” she said.


• Sell a product that you’re comfortable with and enjoy.

• Determine how much it costs to get started and what you get in return. The median cost for a start-up kit is $99.

• Understand where your compensation is coming from. Make sure it’s based on sales of products by yourself or those you bring into the business.

• Pay attention to red flags. If you’re paying money simply for the right to recruit other people or compensated merely for recruiting other people, this is a pyramid scheme.

• Find out whether the company has a buy-back policy. For instance, companies that belong to the Direct Selling Association will repurchase merchandise for at least 90 percent of what you paid for it, if you change your mind about selling for the company.

• Understand what your goals are.

Source: Direct Selling Association



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