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What is Direct Selling?

Direct selling is the sale of a consumer product or service, person-to-person, away from a fixed retail location, marketed through independent sales representatives who are sometimes also referred to as consultants, distributors or other titles. Direct sellers are not employees of the company. They are independent contractors who market and sell the products or services of a company in return for a commission on those sales.

Orders are usually placed in person or via the consultant’s Web page. Sometimes the phone is used to place orders or reorders, but only about 12% of sales take place this way. Home shopping parties are the most widely recognized sales method, where friends, family or acquaintances get together for a few hours to learn about or sample a range of products or services. However, the majority (about 70%) of the direct selling industry’s sales actually occur using a one-to-one approach where one seller may present the products or services to a single consumer.

Just about any product or service can be purchased through direct selling somewhere in the world. Many people think of cosmetics, wellness products and home décor as products that are often sold through direct sales, but add to that countless other product categories including kitchen products, jewelry, clothing, organic gardening supplies, spa products, scrapbooking supplies, rubber stamps and much, much more.

Direct selling should not be confused with other types of sales that take place away from a fixed retail location such as magazine sales, home repair services, telemarketing, wholesaling, real estate sales, or “work-from-home” businesses such as envelope stuffing or product assembly.

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Fast Facts

  • 76% of sellers have been with their company 1+ years
  • 78% of sellers say direct selling meets or exceeds their expectations
  • 82% of sellers report a good, very good or excellent experience with direct selling
  • 74% of US adults have purchased products from a direct seller
  • 15.9 million people in the U.S. are involved in direct selling
  • $31.63 billion in total US sales
  • $166.9 billion sales worldwide