U.S. Direct Selling Experiences Slight Decline in Sales, Representatives in 2017

According to the recently released “Growth and Outlook Report: U.S. Direct Selling in 2017” by the Direct Selling Association (DSA), 2017 saw slight decreases in sales and involvement in direct selling in the United States, the largest direct selling market in the world.

The DSA, the national trade association for companies that offer entrepreneurial opportunities to independent sellers to market and sell products and services, reported that retail sales in the U.S. in 2017 were $34.9 billion, down 1.8 percent from 2016, and that 18.6 million people were involved in direct selling, which represents a 9 percent decrease year over year. Participation in the channel varied from those who joined direct selling companies as discount customers to those who are pursuing a business on a part-time or full-time basis.

Retail Sales

Estimated retail sales for 2017 were $34.9 billion, down slightly from 2016’s $35.54 billion. This marks the second year in a row that sales have declined. Sales had climbed each year from 2011 to 2015, which had an all-time high of $36.12 billion in sales.

The top states with direct selling activity continued to be Texas, California, New York, Florida and Illinois, which, collectively, accounted for nearly 45 percent of all U.S. sales in 2016 with $16.1 billion.

Wellness products remained the most popular product category in the U.S. in 2017, accounting for 33.8 percent of sales, followed by Services (22.1%), Home & Family Care/Durables (16.8%), Beauty & Personal Care (16.5%), Clothing & Accessories (8.2%) and Leisure/Educational (2.6%).

Direct Selling Population

After a record 20.5 million Americans involved in direct selling in 2016, the DSA reported 18.6 million for 2017. Of those, 9.6 million were discount customers, 7.6 million part-time business builders and 1.4 million full-time business builders. These statistics do show growth in the number of Americans starting home-based businesses: In 2017, 1.4 million Americans had full-time businesses compared to 0.8 million in 2016, and 7.6 million Americans were involved in part-time businesses in 2017 compared to 4.5 million in 2016.

The direct selling channel, known for its flexible entrepreneurial opportunities for all ages, reflected that in the statistics that showed 36.9 percent of direct sellers in 2017 were Millennials; 34 percent, Gen Xers; and 26.4 percent, Baby Boomers.

By gender, 73.5 percent of direct sellers in the United States in 2017 were women and 26.5 percent men. After a 3 percent drop from 2014 to 2015, the percentage of men joining the channel has increased each of the last two years, with a 15 percent increase from 2015 to 2016 and another .5 percent increase from 2016 to 2017.

Ethnic and racial demographics for 2017 show that Americans involved in direct selling were 80 percent non-Hispanic and 20 percent Hispanic. Of the non-Hispanic direct sellers, 85 percent were White/Caucasian, 8 percent African American, 1 percent American Indian or Native Alaskan and 1 percent Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. These numbers closely reflect the fabric of America: the U.S. population is 82 percent non-Hispanic and 18 percent Hispanic. Of the non-Hispanic population, 77 percent is White/Caucasian, 13 percent African American, 6 percent Asian, 1 percent American Indian or Native Alaskan and 1 percent Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

For more insights and statistic on the U.S. direct selling channel, visit www.dsa.org.