Seminar Case Study
The Beauty of Neighbourhood Networks
In today’s age of digital technology and the World Wide Web it would be easy to dismiss door-to-door direct sales companies as something of an anachronism. Borne out of nineteenth-century America, where door-to-door salesmen peddled everything from health tonics to encyclopaedias, direct selling was as much a means of self-employment as it was for companies trying to reach outlying communities. However, the success of the direct-selling model has led to its adoption in virtually every country in the world and its growth into the global, multi-billion dlooar industry we see today. According to the Direct Selling Association (DAS), direct sales account for over £2 billion a year in the UK and the industry is the country’s largest provider of part-time, independent earning opportunities’. The DSA represents a wide range of companies covering a variety of products, who between them make-up nearly 80% of the UK direct sales market. Big names include Kleeneze (household products), Avon (cosmetics). Betterware (household products) and Herbalife (health supplements).
Of these, Avon is perhaps the oldest. The company was founded in 1886 by door-to-door bookseller David McConnell. As a sales incentive, he gave customers a bottle of perfume with each book purchase. He soon realised that the perfume was more popular the books and so began selling this instead. McConnell now found himself very much in a woman’s world and thus came up with the idea of using women to sell to women. The first ‘Avon lady’, Mrs P Albee of Winchester, New Hampshire, was therefore hired. She quickly established the role of ‘general agent’ and used her networks to recruit other women as ‘depot agents’, thus establishing the Avon business model we recognise today. The actual name ‘Avon’ was adopted by McConnel after visiting Stratford-Upon-Avon in England and being struck by its beauty....