I admit it: a few years ago, I attended a home shopping party for a line of lingerie and sexual aids. The wine flowed, the giggling never stopped and, by the end of the night, there were a half-dozen women i their 30s and 40s prancing around in various stages of undress. It was a hoot.
I came home and showed my husband the lacy little item I'd bought (and which I still occasionally don if I'm feeling frisky). I also brought home a bottle of massage oil that warms up when you blow on it (what fun!)-and a wallet that was about $100 lighter. It was well worth it. I've since attended home parties for makeup, clothing and skincare products. They tend to be evening affairs that combine a soft sell with gossip, wine and cheese. Basically, the "hostess" provides the refreshments and the venue (her home), and invites neighbours and friends to a sales presentation by an independent direct seller, generally called a "consultant." In return, the hostess usually gets a percentage of the part's sales in free merchandise (whether bras or makeup or jewellery). Or she may get a significant discount on products, often 15 percent or more. Sometimes she gets both.
"I like home shopping parties" says Pat O'Neill, a publishing sales manager and mother of six in Toronto. "If you never go out during the week other than to run kids around to lessons, it's really a nice change of pace." And for those of us who hate to shop alone, says Patricia Critch, a consultant for Silpada Designs jewellery in St. John's, "you get a chance to play dress-up with your girlfriends."
but perhaps the biggest selling point of a home party is the personalized attention you get, according to Connie Boshart of Kitcherner, Ont., a consultant with Jeunique International's bra division. She measures and fits each of her party guests for bras-a service they're unlikely to receive in the lingerie aisle at the department store. And jockey Person to Person clothing consultants help guests mix and match outfits to create many more, says Lia keeping, vice-resident of sales. "It saves a lot of time, and at the end of the day, it saves a lot of money."
It's no wonder that, according to the Direct Sellers Association of Canada (DSA), direct sales (including door-to-door and home shopping parties) account for $2.2 billion in sales in Canada last year. From 2006 to 2008, the industry grew by 11.2 percent in this country, and even in the midst of 2009's economic downturn, sales didn't fall.
In addition, says Ross Creber, president of the DSA, the industry supports about 3,000 full-time positions and 882,000 independent direct sellers. Of those, he estimates 90 percent are women. Women are attracted to this kind of sales job, he says, because it's flexible, its built on relationships and it helps pay the bills. Most consultant make anywhere from $350 to $700 per month. While that may not sound like a lot, Creber points out that many are stay-at-home moms working part-time. Others keep their day jobs, using home parties to supplement their income.