Direct sales and home parties, once the domain of Mary Kay ladies and purveyors of Tupperware, have become a thriving industry that’s still under many adult companies’ radar. Between 2010 and 2015, we have seen a dramatic rise in the number of people working in direct sales and a corresponding upswing in sales numbers. In my 20 years in the industry, I’ve watched what was once regarded as a convenient side gig or an easy way for busy stay-at-home moms to earn some pocket money grow into a viable career path with serious earning potential.
The home party industry has since exploded from a trend into a full-fledged business model with 2015 bringing the biggest numbers we’ve ever seen. According to national trade group Direct Selling Association, more than 20 million people (20.2 million, to be precise) were involved in direct sales in the U.S. last year, with estimated retail sales reaching $36.12 billion — a 4.8% increase from 2014. The direct sales industry continues to experience steady growth, as more individuals generated more revenue in 2015 than any year previous, and the Wellness and Personal Care categories have dominated the market. That’s where Topco Sales and our ever-evolving industry come in.
No longer all about housewares and make-up, home parties remain a thriving arm of the adult retail market, accounting for billions of dollars of sales yearly.
No longer all about housewares and make-up, home parties remain a thriving arm of the adult retail market, accounting for billions of dollars of sales yearly. I’ve watched as consumers have become increasingly savvy, and today’s sex toy shopper is as concerned with body safety and quality just as much as price point. Direct sales, whether via the person-to-person or in-home party modes, gives consumers a chance to ask questions, interact with products, and generally become comfortable with purchases before they make them – something that has always been particularly important in adult. Taking products out of the shops and into consumers’ homes opens the door to consumers who ordinarily would not have made sex toy shopping a priority, whether it be due to embarrassment, inconvenience or inaccessibility. Companies that are prepared to offer quality products at budget-friendly price-points will thrive in the home party setting, and that’s one of the ways Topco Sales has maintained its strong standing among home party companies and their vast catalogs.
And to our benefit, home party and direct sales in most categories has been dominated by forward-thinking women eager to build a business they can manage on their own time and according to their rules. For the first time, the direct sales industry saw a decline in the number of men entering the business and as of 2015, 67.6 percent of the women working in direct sales were age 44 or under. Direct sales has quickly grown to be recognized as a viable source of income for entrepreneurial women of any age, lifestyle and relationship status, and female-led-and-run adult product companies like Topco Sales have an even bigger opportunity to support them. With our COO Autumn O'Bryan at the helm and a sales team comprised exclusively of talented and experienced women, Topco Sales is particularly well-positioned to succeed in the home party market and it’s been a pleasure to personally help facilitate this expansion.
As direct sales and home parties continue to impact the adult retail industry, it’s important to know that there’s constant room to grow and seemingly endless opportunities for product manufacturers to diversify their catalogs to accommodate. Though home parties are nothing new, I still like to think of them as the next frontier; the masterminds behind this industry’s expansion are always reinventing and rethinking their approach to new business and inspiring younger generations to join in. As manufacturers, we must stay on our toes and approach home parties with quality products, competitive pricing, and an open-minded strategy so that we, too, can grow with it.
Nancy Cosimini is a sales account manager at Topco Sales. She previously held a vice president of sales position for a North American home party company that experienced growth across the U.S. and Canada. Cosimini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.