Originally created 02/23/03

Direct sales have large market



AMARILLO, Texas -- For Margie McGuire, the color of green is pink.

The full-time homemaker says she met all her dreams and goals by working as a senior sales director for Mary Kay Inc., the cosmetics company that sells direct to consumers.

"I've driven 15 free cars. Seven of them have been the pink Cadillac," she said, referring to the prize awarded to Mary Kay's top sellers.

The Direct Selling Association, which represents companies such as Mary Kay, Amway and Tupperware, said that in 2001 more than 12 million people sold something directly to another consumer. That figure is up from 5.5 million in 1992. And by far the largest number of direct sellers offer home and family care products.

According to the Mary Kay Web site (www.marykay.com), wholesale sales for 2001 topped $1.4 billion on 200 products in eight categories. Mary Kay is not just an American phenomena, but also boasts 900,000 independent beauty consultants in 33 markets around the world.

Tupperware Corp., which threw its first product demonstration party in 1948, rang up worldwide sales of $1.1 billion and net income of $90 million in 2002.

In direct sales, the toddler on the party block is Southern Living AT HOME, launched in January 2001. The company expected to count more than 20,000 consultants and for revenues to exceed $75 million by the end of last year.

Dottie Fraser of Pampa got in on the ground floor when she signed up as a consultant in January 2002.

"I was looking for something out of my home that would be flexible with my schedule," the mother of three said.

She chose Southern Living AT HOME because of its growth potential, product selection and immediate name recognition. Southern Living AT HOME has just published its fifth catalog of home decor, food and gardening items and books, she said.

Pampered Chef, which also operates on the party system, offers kitchen tools, pots, pans and cookbooks through 67,000 independent consultants. Sales reached more than $740 million in 2001.

Pampered Chef earned the high finance seal of approval in 2002 when Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway snapped up company stock.

The Longaberger Co., known for its handmade baskets, also uses home parties to showcase products. Betty Richardson joined the Longaberger Co., in 1993 after she moved to Amarillo from Dallas and discovered the area had only one representative.

She was already familiar with the company that offers wrought iron, pottery and fabric accessories along with its baskets.

"I have found it to be a profitable business and an incredible opportunity," she said.

The former Dallas business owner said that in sales, "you earn what you are worth."

"I discovered when you find your passion it's not work," she said.