The numbers are in! And they are…


Well, I can’t quite say yet publicly, as they are still being refined and digested by the Direct Selling Association Research Committee. But we will be revealing and discussing industry performance at the upcoming DSA Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas June 3-5. And it will be a hot topic.

Direct selling, like many businesses, and retailing generally, is in a state of transition. This year, the numbers are an insight into that transition. After several years of introspection and transformation, it seems clear (to me at least) that our business model is poised to make the next big jump into the future.

I have spent much of the last few weeks in detailed, individual discussions with many of direct selling’s leading thinkers—CEOs, mid-level on the ground executives, industry consultants, academic experts, Association Hall of Fame Award winners among them. One persistent thought I’ve had is that this is a transformational moment. What our industry does during the coming months will shape our future.

These discussions will continue in Austin as we explore “The Way Forward.” Questions to be engaged include:

  •  What do the recent challenges in party plan performance signal?
  • What do historically low unemployment rates mean for recruitment and retention?
  • How do we react to the immediate delivery demands of consumers spawned by the Amazon phenomenon?
  • How do we cope with unauthorized online sales? What are the most recent trends in immediate compensation for direct sellers?
  • How have and will Association efforts to improve the credibility and reputation of the model benefit us all in the continuing competition against other commerce, especially in the battle for product sales and individual sellers?
  • What do demographic trends portend for an aging salesforce, and how is technology changing the very face of direct selling?
  • How can direct sellers work together to meet these challenges, while still maintaining their individual competitive edge?
  • How will direct selling businesses incorporate the experience of non-direct selling organizations into their business models without sacrificing their core identities?

I can say this about the numbers. They paint a picture that reflects the optimism shared by the industry experts with whom I’ve spoken, as well as the uncertainty about how direct sellers will reach our predicted success.

The Association’s job is to serve as an industry advocate and cheerleader while identifying the necessary areas of growth and challenges we all face. I am truly optimistic about the future of this great business, but I am not hesitant to identify the areas we need to address to reach that future. Fortunately, the numbers are a strong indicator of where direct selling is and where we are going, and that clearly is the “way forward.”