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Women find independence through direct or home-based sales

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Women who sell Avon, Arbonne, Amway and Tupperware say their companies continue to evolve and change to meet the demands of the market. They also say these direct sales approaches can be a fun way to work, combining socializing — through personalized demonstrations in the home or through home-parties — with business.

Cherie Allen thought she’d like to have a party for Thirty-One which sells purses and totes. The company has a Christian twist with a philosophy based on Proverbs 31 describing the virtuous woman. Allen was so impressed; she signed up to be a sales consultant.

“I love direct sales,” she said.

Direct sales and home-based businesses are particularly appealing to mothers with young children. College students use direct sales as extra income, and some full-time employees start a home-based company on the side to supplement income, only to find it growing into a full-time occupation later.

Direct sales continue to be dominated by female sellers. According to the Direct Selling Association 81.8 percent of direct sellers were female, compared to 18.2 percent male sellers in 2010. The Norman Chapter of American Business Women’s Association meeting recently hosted vendors who are women in business — direct sales and home-based business.

The Small Business Administration points out that Apple Computer, Hershey’s, Mary Kay Cosmetics, and the Ford Motor Company all started out as home-based businesses. According to the SBA, “More than half of all U.S. businesses are based out of an owner’s home.”

According to DSA, in 2010, there were an estimated $28.56 billion in direct sales. The majority of these are person-to-person and party or group sales that allow women to socialize while conducting a retail business.

College student Meagan Caldwell sells Scentsy, a wickless alternative to scented candles. Scentsy warmers melt scented wax with a low-watt light bulb.

“My mom started buying it from a friend and I loved it,” Caldwell said. “It’s a great product.”

The Scentsy warmers have become decorative items and decorative night lights. The silhouette collection has the warm glow and look of a decorative candle.

Big name companies are jumping on the direct-sales bandwagon. One of the world’s leading food companies, Mars, established Dove Chocolate Discoveries five years ago. Mars was founded in 1911 by Frank C. Mars. The first Mars candies were made in his Tacoma, Wash. kitchen, according to company history. So why not encourage people to make chocolate confections in their kitchens?

Consultants demonstrate their wares at tasting parties. Those who don’t want to do their own baking have plenty of choices from the available products. The company is new to Oklahoma and growing.

“We’re doing pretty good,” Angela Hamlin said.

Hamlin, a DCD consultant, otherwise known as an “Independent Chocolatier,” said Dove Chocolate Discoveries took off on the east and west coasts and grew from there. The fun of combining friends and chocolate is an irresistible way to make money.

Pampered Chef is another party sales company that capitalizes on the combination of women who love to cook or bake coming together for a social shopping opportunity. With lots of grilling products in the spring and summer 2012 line, the company hits a strong male demographic as well and the titles of Pampered Chef cookbooks related to the use of its products continues to expand.

While companies like Scentsy, Dove Chocolate Discoveries and Pampered Chef vary in age, they are newcomers on the scene compared to direct sales staples like Tupperware and Avon.

Tupperware was founded in 1946.

“A multi-brand, multi-category, direct sales company, Tupperware Brands has a global sales force of 2.6 million in nearly 100 countries with sales revenues of $2.1 billion in 2009. The company sells products under nine brand names, including Tupperware food preparation and storage solutions for the home, and eight beauty and personal care brands,” according to the company’s history.

One of the oldest direct sales companies is Avon. Ironically, the company that dubs itself “The Company for Women” was founded by a man.

According to company history, David H. McConnell was a traveling book salesman who founded Avon in 1886 “after realizing his female customers were far more interested in the free perfume samples he offered than in his books.”

Avon has gone through revolutionary changes in recent decades, expanding its line of jewelry, adding clothing and baby products, and now, adding store fronts in some cities.

Amber Rose manages Amber’s Avon Beauty Center at 1000 E. Alameda St., suite 136.

Rose said while customers can still get popular standbys like “Skin So Soft” products, there’s a whole new world of Avon your mother and grandmother never knew about.

Long successful at creating marketing partnerships, Avon sells Curves work out apparel.

Direct sales have taken a hit during the recession years but appears to be rebounding, according to Direct Selling Association data. After hitting a high $32.18 billion in 2006, the industry sales numbers dropped over the next three years dipping to $28.33 billion in 2009. In 2010, sales were $28.56 billion.

Those recession year numbers still top sales from a decade ago. In 2001, direct sales generated $26.69 billion, according to DSA. Direct sales in the south — and particularly in the south central region that includes Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana — appears to be the strongest in the nation.

By Joy Hampton The Norman Transcript 5/27/2012

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