American Morning

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June 17th, 2009
10:31 AM ET

Avon, Mary Kay making comeback

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.

Filed under: Business
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Earth

    Good article, thank you
    If you are interesting 2012 year, by the way, welcome to us 🙂

    October 8, 2009 at 10:55 am |
  2. Charles Lenoir

    This is a good article and there are some very interesting comments about network marketing and the direct selling industry here. Direct Selling is here to stay. I have been involved in the network marketing and direct selling industry on and off since 1997. Being involved in network marketing gave me the opportunity to educate myself on the fundamentals of operating a small business.

    One of the biggest lessons I learned was on Marketing. It is probably the single most important aspect of running your business. How you approach marketing your product or program will probably determine your success or failure. If you master the art of marketing you will experience success.

    See the tool I am using to organize and market my home business and launch your business into the stratosphere today!

    July 31, 2009 at 7:04 am |
  3. Andy Detwiler

    We too have noticed an increase in those interested in joining our Direct Selling Co. Michele Baratta atHome.

    The amount earned at a party by our consultants has not diminished either.
    Parties are still around $800 on average.

    We feel honored to supply an opportunity to those looking for supplemental income.

    It is not your typical Avon Rep anymore... It's sophisticated, smart women with a desire to contribute, share and feel great about themselves.
    It's really a great outlet and opportunity to start your own business.

    It's a "Plan B" Option!

    July 28, 2009 at 12:24 pm |
  4. Linda Robinson

    I am truly a witness that Avon is an excellent company. I started selling Avon in 2005 during a time in which I was unemployed for approximately 2 years. My prayer to God was to give me an at home business and he did. With only $10 in my wallet and just enough money to meet the District Manager, my dream was realized. I can say that prayer works and so does Avon.

    July 28, 2009 at 11:07 am |
  5. crystal medley

    Ive been selling avon for 16yrs and i loved it. and i was in leadership, they have training all the time.
    thank you
    crystal medley

    July 25, 2009 at 12:37 am |
  6. R, Betty

    I love Avon. Thanks to Avon, I can now manage my time better.
    There is now time to do volunteer work;
    time to be there for my family; time for myself, yet earn some money providing a service for others.
    Its great.

    July 21, 2009 at 2:29 am |
  7. Barbi

    I was an Avon representative 25 years ago and left for my own personal reasons. Today I am back and loving every minute and questioning myself why I ever left? I cannot believe the awesome changes that took place while I was gone. Avon is definately a 21st century company empowered by women! And to comment on the negative comments posted, I would say that you do get out of direct selling what you put into it. Just as you do in life. How successful you want to be is up to you. Avon is there to help you with training on various levels and with a variety of products ie, makeup, skincare, jewelry, clothing etc..... How can you lose.!

    July 17, 2009 at 3:24 pm |
  8. Susana Chi

    I just want to say that I sell Avon and I love it, because I'm a mon and I am earning money at the say time. The products are amazing and really ship I just can say that Avon changed my life.

    July 16, 2009 at 10:51 pm |
  9. Emily

    I love the positive comments on here and I's alot easier to be negative than to be positive. I too am an Avon Certified Beauty Advisor & I absolutely adore it! I'm a stay-at-home mom and I'm having the time of my life! I'm able to set my own hours and still be home when my child gets home from school! It truly is alot of fun & it really can be a money-making venture; But it's true, you do get back with what you put into put all you can into it and reap the rewards! Nothing in life is easy...if it were, everyone would be doing it!
    How many other companies do you know that can honestly say it's been around for more than 120 years and can truly stand behind their product in such a way as to offer a 100% money-back satisfaction guarantee??
    I'm not sure about Mary Kay, but starting Avon only costs $ what is there to lose?

    July 16, 2009 at 7:22 pm |
  10. Debra

    My daughter is selling Avon and Brown bag stuff .And she loves it I like Avon not only because she sells it .But I like Avon too.I kid around with her,and tell her my dresser looks like the counter at a Avon booth .lol.Last year I bought all my Christmas gifts from her.And I'll do it again this year too..Avon products sure is alot nicer then then walmarts stuff.And she still can be a stay at home mom. too.

    July 15, 2009 at 2:55 pm |
  11. Marcie Stevens

    I have read many of these comments and to some degree with them in regard to MLMs. However, I am an Avon Representative and with Avon, we do sell products and not sell the opportunity to sell the opportunity. If all you want to do is sell products, that is fine. If you want to sell a lot that is good too and if you only want to sell a little they don't make any waves about it.

    If you want to go into Leadership and begin recruiting and training, that is your personal choice and your personal requiriements for that are manageable. It is more of a mentorship program.

    Before you go badmouthing all direct sales companies because of the experiences you have had in the past, know the difference between direct sales and MLM. MLMs take your money and try to get you to get other people to give money to join. Direct sales companies atually sell products and if you choose to move up with in the company, that is up toyou or you can stay where you are and be just as happy.

    July 15, 2009 at 11:20 am |
  12. Betty Horosko

    I have been reading the negative posts and I can only say it is easy to be more negative than positive. I have been a consultant for 12 years and have always made as much money as I wanted to. Owning your own business is hard work,but Ray Crock and Harlen Sanders didn't whine ,they worked. My Director and recruiter has earns several cars and 5 of them have beeen cadillacs. The people who sell their products on ebay and at flea markets are doing themselves and injustice, but it is their own business. Mary Kay Ash was a true pioneer in a time when women were suppose to stay home and bake cookies. This business allows you to work for yourself, raise your own kids and bake cookies when you want to. How many other companies give you a 50% profit on all your sales, back up the product 100% and allow you to grow into the woman you can. Plus they live by the philosophy" Do unto others as you wou would have done unto you". Go ahead with your negative comments, loosers usually always whine.

    July 10, 2009 at 9:25 am |
  13. Deb

    MLM vs Traditonal

    In a traditional company you have a building – same with a network marketing company

    You also have a president, vice presidents, middle managers and staff to run the company – same with network marketing.

    But here's where it's different, in a traditional company if you have 50 million dollars to advertise and promote your product – who do you give that money to? You spend it on TV, radio, and print ads, In Network marketing they spend that same 50 million dollars but on ordinary people who master the product and master how to sell it.

    Bottom line, you always have to work a business, there is no magic, as always, hard work has a larger payout. People are not duplicatable, systems are. That is why people fail or quit.

    June 24, 2009 at 8:44 am |
  14. Rod Cook

    Network Marketing is a good recession busting market segment to be in you just have to be careful of what company you are joining with all the hype especially on the Internet.... A free help is "MLM Detective Due Dilligence." This free tool is found on and you will find supports this film and the good of Network Marketing while allowing you to cut "through" the MLM Clutter safely. There are no tricks to get your name as a prospect. The MLM Watchdog Specializes in Consumer Protection.

    Rod Cook
    The MLM WatchDog

    June 23, 2009 at 5:28 pm |
  15. Andy Detwiler

    I am a man, that has personally never understood this business. I would not ask my buddies over for a baseball card trading party... It always seemed odd. UNTIL, we started a home-based business ourselves.

    UNREAL the amount of women that LOVE this sort of social interaction. It really is not about selling. It is about sharing. Sharing a passion and getting out for a while.

    People are savvy and realize they are not going to make a million bucks by getting in early. They understand it takes work. But, what's harder?... leaving your children at day care all day or having a party?
    Sure, they make money too. Of course, that is one of the ingredients to this business. AND, they make as much as they want. Not limited to their hourly rate.

    For more information, I invite you to see how you can make $200 in one party.

    AND, you too can see why this is such a great "feel good" business to be in.

    June 23, 2009 at 3:38 pm |
  16. Barb

    It is always amazing to see how people react to home based businesses and mlm. I was no different – very skeptical and very negative in 1996 – however, I couldn't hardly afford to buy diapers and formula. I had experienced alot of negative things in various organizations... ultimately it's PEOPLE that make it bad. There are good honest people and then others who aren't in any industry ... look around 🙂 The network marketing and Direct Sales Industry set me free in 1996 after struggling with two babies and one on the way . I wouldn't have joined because of my past experiences. Because of the success that I saw my husband who was a shy – blue jean – cowboy riding bulls professionally ... I started to believe that if he could do it, anyone could. I joined his mission to build a home based business and not only did we become debt free, but we made millions. Sound too good to be true? I thought it was something I could never achieve, and then it happened. Join a company with integrity, a good product, and a system to support you. Find one that is a member of the DSA and if you work the business... it's the only way I know for people in this economy to get paid what they are worth. People's negative comments no longer make me angry – they make me remember what I felt in 1996, and I understand their skepticism. Today – after years of being retired we have launched a company to help people during this difficult financial time, and we believe that there is nothing smarter than joining a home based business of some kind.

    June 23, 2009 at 3:13 pm |
  17. Don

    It makes sense that people will be looking for alternatives in our shaky economic environment, and it never hurts to add a second income, especially when it's something you love!

    As with any business one needs to investigate before joining, and one has to actually DO the business for it to work! No one that I know in NuSkin has been trained to lie, about income or anything else!

    The fact that there are many Starbuck's and McDonald's already there doesn't make them a bad investment, and neither does many distributors mean there is no opportunity in Direct Sales, especially when one has unique products. There are several good companies out there, and the DSA has played a major role in helping the industry.

    I enjoy helping people evaluate Direct Sales companies before joining!

    June 22, 2009 at 5:59 pm |
  18. Cindy

    Always do proper investigating through credible sources when looking into anything you invest in like Better Business Bureau and Business Experts analysis. EVERYONE has an opinion...Many websites are gossip centers with no way to validate what is TRUTH, half truth or hurt people. Yes- a lot of people lie or exaggerate in these things...the bottom line is EVERYTHING takes work, planning and business sense to manage expenses. When you work for yourself you are the treasurer and CEO and most people never take the time to learn that in Direct Sales. I have lost money in it AND I have made six figures- I can see both sides. I learned I have to always keep an eye on my expenses and the people I take advice from and work wishes!

    June 19, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  19. Rachel

    Just remember, the people who do MLM are trained to lie about their income, because if it looks like they're doing well, that helps them get recruits. Almost no one makes $1000/month selling Mary Kay, and some people lose money in the attempt. How can they claim they get security from something that can lose them money?

    The fact that more people are out there trying to sell this stuff makes competition even tougher, and there are already more people out their selling Avon and Mary Kay than the market can support.

    June 19, 2009 at 12:37 pm |
  20. Bonnie Jordan

    I don't know about the other MLM businesses; however, Amway Global doesn't require a minimum sale for any Independent Business Owner. Obviously, if we want to stay in business and increase our income, we need to sell/buy products; however, I would buy them regardless. We are not required to buy, store, ship, or any of that. People can order through us or directly through the corporation. We are INDEPENDENT, working for ourselves, but not by ourselves. It's a wonderful opportunity for anyone looking for a second stream of income.

    June 18, 2009 at 7:49 pm |
  21. lazygardens

    The video claims you can't be terminated. That is not what the contract says. Read the contract please.

    And, before you buy into a MLM, ask to see the recruiter's last couple of years expenses and income statements.

    June 18, 2009 at 6:29 pm |
  22. TCPhaturos

    I was a consultant with Mary Kay for 5 years, I lost money all 5 years. You can be terminated for several reasons. I wish the news outlets doing these peices on direct selling would ask for hard evidence to support the income claims these ladies are making. The fact is that the expenses far outweight the income and you do not get what you put into it. Appointments don't hold, people don't show, people don't buy and you end up with inventory that can't be given away. One visit to e-bay will tell you that the reason why Mary Kay claims to be the number one selling cosmetic brand in the US is that their customers are the consultants. There is absolutely no evidence that the consultant is selling what she orders. Visit for more information. Please educate yourself before you sign up.

    June 18, 2009 at 5:29 pm |
  23. Jan McGovern

    Do some investigation of your own on Multi Level Marketing (MLM) before signing any type of direct selling contract. Also check out for an insiders look into the world of Mary Kay cosmetics.

    June 18, 2009 at 4:29 pm |
  24. Anna Claire

    For anyone considering becoming an independent beauty consultant with Mary Kay, you need to visit I had given serious thought to becoming a Mary Kay consultant, even went to one of their recruitment events ... and reading the various posts on made me realize that if it seems as if it's too good to be true, it really is. These multi-level marketing companies scare me. It's a pyramid scheme, pure and simple.

    June 18, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
  25. debbiemcginn

    I cannot speak for all Direct Selling Companies, however, I can vouch for AVON. I have been an Independent Certified Beauty Advisor for 12 years and love it! When I had a full-time position at a company, I was able to also run my AVON business. It is fairly easy to do. Don't get me wrong, you get out of it what you put into it. But the flexibility and the stability is nice to have. AVON has been around for more than 100 years and provides a high quality/diverse product line that is very affordable. In these tighter economic times, that benefits both the Independent Rep and the customer.

    June 18, 2009 at 7:03 am |
  26. Freedom

    The number of people in network marketing has grown by 50% since 2000, people are getting tired of being chained to a desk all day and retiring broke!

    June 17, 2009 at 12:18 pm |