Resurgence in Home Sales an Increasing Competitor for Retailers

Discussion
Jan 08, 2010
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By Bernice
Hurst
, Contributing Editor, RetailWire

Anne Gill, executive
director of Avon UK, leads her team by example. She not only manages a
business with thousands of representatives but wears the products proudly.
During an interview with The Times of
London, readers are assured that Ms. Gill’s twenty years at Avon UK included
considerable time walking the walk, selling door-to-door as her colleagues
and subordinates do.

We are also
told that, despite the fact that "the beauty industry is by no means an
obvious bedfellow of traditional feminism,” Ms. Gill firmly emphasizes
"the importance of female empowerment to Avon."

"We were giving
women the opportunity for financial independence before they got the vote,"
she said, simultaneously offering flexible working hours alongside that
independence.

Flexibility
and the opportunity to control earnings, to a certain extent, may account
for an increase in representatives and sales. Ms. Gill believes many graduates
seeking employment appreciate the opportunity selling Avon can offer, pointing
to "a big link between beauty and empowerment in the products. By being
able to get people to buy the products, you’re becoming economically empowered
and independent, so I think there’s an intrinsic link between the two.
In tough times, I think women still want to look good." She also noted,
"We’re seeing a lot of new customers trading down from the Clarins and
the Cliniques, because they recognize that they can get products for a
lot less money."

Avon salespeople
can recruit new representatives and become team managers relatively easily,
increasing their earning potential. The company’s online activities have
grown but "the vast majority of its products are sold by traditional representatives
knocking on doors."

With Richard
Berry, director of the Direct Sales Association (DSA), predicting that
£2.2 billion may be made through direct sales in the U.K. this year and
almost half a million people out there selling, 2010 may be a good time
for retailers to re-examine all the forms of competition they face.

Discussion
Questions: What are the advantages and disadvantages of door-to-door
selling in the current marketplace? What’s the likelihood that door-to-door
selling will increase?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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10 Comments on "Resurgence in Home Sales an Increasing Competitor for Retailers"


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Max Goldberg
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

From a customer service standpoint, door-to-door selling would seem to be welcome and make sense. How many department stores offer this kind of personal attention? If the price and quality of the door-to-door goods are competitive with in-store brands, all the better. When the human touch has gone out of most retail transactions, door-to-door can be a refreshing change. The problem for door-to-door is finding a time when enough people are at home to make the effort financially viable.

Roger Saunders
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

Door to Door sales will likely always be a part of the shopping bazaar in America. It’s not a threat to American retailers. And, there are numerous other channels, some of which retailers can put to good use beyond their own brick & mortar/online stores, on which to focus in their ongoing SWOT Analysis.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 3 months ago

You will see the growth in door-to-door in unique lines such as Pampered Chef and Tupperware. You can’t get these products anywhere in stores, so there is no choice but to order from ‘your local product expert’.

The UK is fine and dandy but I’m really curious to know how Avon and Mary Kay are doing in North America. Do those products have enough quality and uniqueness to grab share from the ever expanding cosmetic sections at pharmacies? I’m not seeing a real slowdown in that category, so it would interesting to find out where they stand in the door-to-door world.

W. Frank Dell II
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

I remember the Fuller Brush man, vacuum cleaner salesmen, Avon, Amway and others. There were the Tupperware parties and the list goes on. Door-to-door sales have declined for some valid reasons. First is the change in households. We have an increase in working wives and single head of households. This has reduced the available sales time. Second is the internet, which allows consumers to purchase on their own time schedule.

With all that said, door-to-door sales are still viable and likely to increase. Baby Boomers are retiring and some will be home. Also, consumers do like personal sales when done well.

No question that beauty products for women will continue, but what about for men? Apparel could be a growth area as well. The key is providing products consumers cannot get elsewhere, not unlike Private Label in retail. In our new world of social networking, door-to-door may take on a whole new definition.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
11 years 3 months ago

The big advantage of door-to-door selling is the opportunity to interface with potential customers. That’s good! The disadvantage is that you never know who or what lies behind the door whose doorbell you are ringing in some faraway neighborhood these days. That’s possibly bad.

With so much weird personal-tragedy news on the airwaves these days the balance of methodology would seem to favor selling where other customers and security people abound. But then there are an army of folks who may not be afraid of any Big Bad Wolves.

Susan Rider
Guest
Susan Rider
11 years 3 months ago

Door-to-door sales is not a threat to retailers. There is a real possibility that door-to-door sales involve another threat, though–security! As more and more violence, scams and theft arises, people will become very leery of welcoming a stranger into their house.

Mark Johnson
Guest
Mark Johnson
11 years 3 months ago

I agree with Susan. The last thing I want is someone (who knows who this person is) at my door at night (when I may not be home) trying to sell something to me or to my wife (and three kids under 5). The girl scouts are one thing, but not a big fan of the Avon (ding dong) lady.

Kevin Graff
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

Lately, I’ve seen first hand the incredible success of in-home jewelery parties. I was shocked to see how much jewelery was sold in about 3 hours. No overhead for the company. The ‘hostess’ provides the location, food and wine (this is probably the magic ingredient to get everyone spending!).

The opportunity for networking, socializing and partying is just to good to pass up for so many women (and men too). I saw more energy and excitement at these home parties than I have ever seen in a retail store. Hmmm…maybe retailers should serving wine and cheese?

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
11 years 3 months ago

The Fuller Brush man and the Watkins Vanilla man with their product cases are warmly remembered relics of Eisenhower America. But life was different then. All the prior commenters who see that it is neither safe nor sensible for door-to-door salespeople to enter strange houses–or for homeowners to allow into their homes salespeople they barely know or don’t know at all–are spot on. Online sites and UPS are the door-to-door salesmen of today.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
11 years 3 months ago

No one in our extended family answers the door to uninvited guests. It makes no sense. Evangelists, salespeople, census-takers, or pamphlet-givers, they remain outside while the family remains safely inside. There is no requirement to answer the door whenever anyone feels like knocking or ringing the bell. Unfortunately, lots of folks missed that day in common sense class. After all, why are there peepholes in doors?

Door-to-door sales are humiliating to the salespeople. Failure and rejection by the bucketsful. Who, with the requisite good grooming, language, personality, and persuasiveness would want to do that?

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