Tupperware’s Recent Woes Spotlighted in WSJ Story

Direct Selling News has been talking a lot lately about how our channel needs to evolve and come in line with the current consumer landscape.

In a recent article posted, the Wall Street Journal shone a light on Tupperware’s struggle to attract customers as well as its Feb. 24 announcement that its annual report would be delayed due to a probe into accounting issues.

The Orlando, Fla., company has been selling its iconic food containers for nearly 75 years and is one of the top direct selling companies in the world. However, as the WSJ article noted, the company is fighting to remain relevant amid changing consumer preferences. Revenue and profits have been sagging for years, and the Feb. 24 announcement caused shares to fall by nearly half the next day, closing at $2.60, a fraction of the $96 they traded at more than six years ago.

The company has also seen a decline in the number of independent Representatives. According to the WSJ story, the company had roughly 546,000 active salespeople around the globe as of September, but its active sales force in the U.S. and Canada fell to about 184,000—less than half the number it had a decade earlier.

What is the reason behind the decline? Tupperware’s former chief executive officer, Patricia Stitzel, pointed to a lack of connection to today’s consumers. In October, Stitzel—who stepped down in November—told analysts “people just don’t have connection with the brand anymore.”

Responses to the WSJ article seem to support that statement. Tupperware’s success was in large part due to the party plan sales method introduced by founder Earl Tupper’s secretary, Brownie Wise. Although the company also sells person-to-person, its at-home parties were key to showcasing the company’s iconic storage containers. But people today are not willing to devote an evening to a sales pitch.

“They need to diversify how they sell,” said one online comment to the WSJ story. “I’m not spending an evening at someone’s home for the express purpose of buying stuff to store my leftovers in.”

Another online comment took that lack of connection further: “Classic example of the failure to adapt to changes in sales channel, consumer tastes and basic marketing.”

The company has tried to reconnect with consumers by offering new kitchen items, e-commerce investments and other initiatives. It even had a pop-up store in New York City this past holiday season. And Christopher O’Leary, Tupperware’s interim chief executive, remains positive that the company will be able to reach consumers.

“Tupperware Brands is well-positioned to capitalize on what consumers want and need,” he said. “I think we’re just starting to scratch the surface.”