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Retailers and well-known brands that have branched out to direct-to-consumer social shopping all reported significant sales growth in April.
A survey from the Direct Selling Association (DSA) – whose members include the like of The Body Shop at Home, Avon and Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic – revealed data that showed further growth in the channel as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.
For example, The Body Shop’s direct selling division reported a 65 per cent increase in turnover in April compared to 2019.
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Another key trend outlined in the survey was a significant increase in the numbers of people joining direct-to-consumer brands to earn additional income by becoming independent salespeople.
Usborne Books at Home, the home-selling division of the children’s publisher, reported a 104 per cent increase in new salespeople joining its business in March and April compared to the same period last year.
Meanwhile premium hair and skincare brand Monat reported a 300 per cent increase in new partners joining its business in the UK and Europe since the start of lockdown.
“The closure of retail stores in March led to our members reporting early increases in sales via direct-to-consumer channels as shoppers turned to alternative forms of retail,” DSA director general Susannah Schofield said.
“Now many brands are reporting that sales are being further bolstered through April and into May by an increased appetite for side hustle-style earning as people look to supplement household incomes amidst the economic uncertainty.”
The Body Shop at Home global director Peter Kropp said: “We have seen strong growth in the numbers of people both joining and re-joining the business since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown.
“As well as helping to fulfil the recent increase in consumer demand that we’ve seen, this boost to our independent salesforce is also driving new product sales as greater numbers of people showcase and sell our ranges.
“The current growth is very strong and we’re now building on the momentum in the 6 months prior to the start of the Covid lockdown.”
Schofield anticipated that sales from home-selling will continue to be sustained at higher levels compared to pre-coronavirus, as people continue to supplement their income longer-term, particularly given the broader economic outlook.
The DSA said direct selling is a £2.67 billion-a-year channel of retail where products are sold directly to consumers, via a salesperson, outside of a fixed retail environment.
This could be via “Tupperware-style” parties, face-to-face, online or through catalogue distribution.
During lockdown, much of this went virtual thanks to the rise of group video call apps such as Zoom.
Individuals act as independent salespeople and earn through commission paid on product sales.
The latest data (pre-coronavirs) estimates that in the UK approximately 563,000 people earn this way, usually on a part-time basis to supplement household incomes.
The average amount earned in the UK through direct selling is £373 per month.
DSA said direct selling operates in a similar manner to a franchise, but start-up fees are considerably lower, and it is often free to get started.