Armies of new Avon ladies are lining up in this thinning economy. Some were bankers. Some were stay-at-home moms. All are trying to get ahead or stay afloat in a down economy.
When you hear about companies like Avon, Mary Kay and Tupperware you may think throwback to the 1950's. But direct selling is back in a big way.
Many women are ringing doorbells again as a “second" job, hoping to make extra cash in this bad economy. Remember the old Avon commercials: "Avon, calling at your door." Ding, dong. "Avon calling!"
The Avon lady is back...with a twist. Its new commercial stresses the economic downturn and how selling Avon products can make you feel more financially secure, touting it as "a business you can count on."
And these days, more and more Americans are agreeing and turning to direct selling.
Avon reported in March alone that representative additions were up 50%. Mary Kay saw a 22 percent increase in new sales force members in the United States in the first quarter of 2009, compared to the first quarter of 2008.
"When people are feeling like they might get laid off, or frankly have been laid off, or they're looking for something to kind of cushion that checkbook a little bit more, this is a great opportunity for people," says Amy M. Robinson, Vice President Direct Selling Association.
Not as their primary source of income, but as a "second" job, a financial "safety net" selling products from household names of decades past. Products like Avon and Tupperware are back...
So are the items in the pink packaging. An ad for Mary Kay cosmetics tells women: "Turn modern makeup and skin care that women love into extra income."
That’s exactly what Kim Joseph is doing. She says, "I just begin to open my mouth and tell people I'm a Mary Kay consultant, try this lip gloss."
The 27-year-old started selling Mary Kay cosmetics about a year ago to help pay for her wedding and her new home.
Today, she makes about a thousand dollars a month. Extra money on top of the salary she makes as a marketing manager.
She's not alone.
In the past 20 years the number of direct sellers in America has nearly quadrupled from 4 million to 15 million.
According to the Direct Selling Association, a trade group that represents 200 U.S. companies, the number of direct sellers increased 8 percent to 5.1 million Americans in the 1990-1991 recession. And in the 2001 recession, the work force increased to 12.2 million.
While 2008 figures are not yet available, in 2007 an estimated 15 million people nationwide were in direct sales and some 58 percent of them became reps as a second job, says the DSA.
But in this economy are people really buying? "Definitely", says Joseph. "It's a low ticket, feel good item."
And Joseph says for her, direct selling is the ultimate in job security. "We are recession proof," she says.
Her goal – to sell enough makeup to win a Mary Kay pink Cadillac.