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Click here to order the October 2014 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device. 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).
This most recent data clearly illustrates direct selling’s sustainable growth—especially in times of economic recovery and improved governmental policies to support entrepreneurship.
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. Data is reported using constant 2013 dollars, to remove currency fluctuations from the equation. The sales of the 23 billion-dollar markets in 2013 are familiar to those who follow this annual ranking. Following closely is the Central and South American region, which also posted just over a 9 percent year-over-year sales change.
The desire to improve one’s socioeconomic standing remains strong in emerging markets, which translates to excellent growth potential for direct selling. 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. 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.
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.
Whereas an American will generally buy shampoo no matter what, in countries like India it may not be a regular purchase. 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. 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 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. In India, the domestic Godrej Consumer Products now claims more than $1 billion in revenue, taking a stab at the more established Hindustan Unilever. 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. 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. 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.
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. For women, in particular, direct selling is an opportunity to contribute money to the household and develop a degree of independence.
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. In Latin America, direct selling is equipping consultants with social media tools that enhance day-to-day communications. Cosmetics consumption keeps growing at an average annual growth rate of 15 percent, despite an overall economic slowdown.
Chinese women now control 60 percent of domestic consumption and make 77.5 percent of household purchase decisions. 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.
One factor in the sustainability of the industry is the increasingly digital nature of the world economy. The WFDSA’s Carlucci sees Africa as an interesting continent right now for direct selling although, currently, the only DSA exists in South Africa.
Central and South America are comprised of fast-growing countries known for their entrepreneurship culture. In Latin America, the “family factor” is very important and makes direct selling attractive as a self-employment option. Direct selling is also becoming a full-time work option, says Pio del Castillo, Mary Kay’s Manager of Corporate Communications. Technology in all its forms is an essential ingredient to the future growth of direct selling, according to industry executives and economists.
Better information lets consultants individualize their service and marketing approach for each customer. 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.

Consumer company models being developed in India, China and Brazil show a massive portion of advertising spend being allocated for mobile campaigns. 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. 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. All of these technology changes amount to a modernizing of the direct selling industry in the digital age. Awarded by sponsor to Distributors who achieve 15% Performance Bonus level (at least 4,500PV Personal Sales Volume) in a month.
As we prepare to publish our annual list of the top 100 direct selling companies in the world, we are excited to announce early reports of record numbers from industry leaders.
The numbers reveal increased sales in each of Amway’s top 10 markets, a first for the company in more than 20 years. DSN spoke to Amway President Doug DeVos about the factors contributing to the company’s record year.
The strategy includes an in-depth evaluation of whether Amway’s products, services and technology represent the best possible support the company can offer independent business owners. Discussing what role the founding vision plays in Amway today and in the Amway of the future, DeVos says, “Everything! Amway’s commitment to innovation includes plans to invest over $335 million in manufacturing and R&D.
Good news also issued from NuSkin, which yesterday reported 2012 revenue of $2.17 billion, a 24-percent year-over-year improvement. The text of Amway Wiki is copyrighted (automatically, under the Berne Convention) by TribeTech AB and Amway Wiki's editors and contributors. Japan recorded flat sales in the difficult period following the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
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. The sustained growth of direct selling is shown in a positive CAGR,” says Amway’s Judy Jones, Chairman of the WFDSA Global Research Committee. 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. Direct selling is growing rapidly in the Asia Pacific region and Africa—dubbed the “new frontier” by Carlucci. Six Latin American countries—Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Peru and Venezuela—are billion-dollar markets. In many of these countries, the retail industry is not fully developed and companies cannot put products on a Wal-Mart shelf.
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. Some are affluent and ready to spend their newly robust income on fulfilling their dreams and ensuring a better life for their children. In less developed markets, currency fluctuations and commodity prices impact the consumer spend.
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). 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. Doing this means using a technology-rich approach and being socially responsible, says Amway’s Arismendi. The direct selling model enjoys a positive image in the country, says Guido Amendt, Mary Kay Germany’s Director of Marketing. 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. 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. South Africa’s 2013 retail sales were $720 million, and its three-year cumulative growth rate is 6.8 percent. Ernst & Young, in its G20 Entrepreneurship Barometer 2013, ranks Argentina, Brazil and Mexico as some of the best world economies for entrepreneurs.
One important factor boosting direct selling in the region includes traditional retailers such as O Boticario adding direct selling to their marketing efforts.
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.
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. Companies should be looking at how much they are investing now to leverage the relationships they have and how they understand consumer behavior.
DeVos attributes much of Amway’s current growth to the Growth through Innovation business strategy the company launched six years ago.
It is the same story with innovation applied, because we can always be better.” DeVos highlights the company’s advance into diverse markets.

NuSkin’s numbers include record fourth-quarter results at 19 percent over the prior-year period. Markets posting double-digit increases in 2011 include China, India, Korea, Taiwan, Turkey and Vietnam, plus the Latin American region.With more than 50 years of experience, Amway now holds the top spot in direct selling in key markets like China, India, Japan and Thailand, and is a recognized leader in the industry globally. If the current rates of growth in the United States and China remain steady, China could become the No.
Africa posted just over 9 percent year-over-year sales change for 2013, trailing only Asia Pacific at 12.6 percent. More multinational companies are starting to do business in Central and South America, where consumers embrace direct selling.
Others are just beginning to realize their buying potential as they are exposed to the wealth of available products. As locally based companies achieve scale and develop their own brand strength, they are beginning to compete with multinationals. The company makes mid-range women’s shoes and is like the Nine West of China, according to Irwin.
This bodes well for direct sellers, who build their business on micro-local enterprises and interpersonal connections. The most prevalent sales method is face-to-face, with 70 percent of consultants using this avenue, according to the U.S. With young people being notoriously risk adverse, direct selling is an ideal option for people in many age ranges and from varied backgrounds.
He adds that a sustainable increase in purchasing power per capita offers opportunities for consumers to buy high-quality products through direct selling.
These companies are international and national industrial groups, medium-sized companies and startup firms.
Many career decisions center on one’s family, which makes direct selling attractive as a source of income in addition to traditional employment. Smart phones and 3G networks are established in China and are just beginning to take off in Brazil and India. Three product categories represent 94 percent of the company’s sales: Nutrition (46 percent), Beauty (26 percent) and Home (22 percent). Some are young markets, some are old markets, but together they represent considerable geographic diversity. The figures reinforce direct selling’s strength and show its potential, says Alessandro Carlucci, CEO of Natura Cosmeticos and Chairman of the WFDSA. Growing its top markets, which include: Brazil, United States, Mexico, Russia, Central Europe, Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, United Kingdom, Philippines, Turkey and South Africa. 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. The Mumbai, India-based consumer goods firm employs 65,000 women through its Shakti direct selling initiative. Women play a key role in those numbers and are increasingly active in economic consumerism.
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. 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.
The industry is well established in Latin America, where customers like to buy from people they know.
Direct selling retail growth in the country is related to the economic recuperation of international markets, del Castillo says. Amway is still improving lives, but is now reaching even more individuals around the globe.
We provide people an opportunity to have a business of their own, fueled by strong brands and innovative products,” said Steve Van Andel, chairman.
These women sell products in their villages, giving Hindustan Unilever and the women themselves a huge economic opportunity they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Additionally, it is a market with potential because retail is not well developed in many regions. Founded in 1959 and based in the United States (Ada, Michigan), Amway offers consumer products and business opportunities in more than 80 countries and territories worldwide through more than 3 million distributors building their own AMWAY businesses. Top-selling brands for Amway are NUTRILITE vitamin, mineral and dietary supplements, ARTISTRY skincare and colour cosmetics, and eSpring water treatment systems.
With more than 20,000 employees worldwide, Alticor is privately held by the Van Andel and DeVos families, headed by Chairman Steve Van Andel and President Doug DeVos, and governed by a board of directors led by members of the two families and two outside directors.
The company provides product development, manufacturing and logistics services through Access Business Group and Alticor Corporate Enterprises.

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