At an industry roundtable event chaired by retail analyst Natlie Berg, the UK industry body, The Direct Selling Association, reported that a survey of its members points to a 45.5% growth in sales in the channel in 2020.
Chief Executive Officers from four of the leading direct selling companies in the UK also discussed current and future trends, including:
- The Body Shop at Home is now one of the largest direct selling companies in the UK, with 60,000 distributors.
- Amway UK and Ireland General Manager Andy Smith reported that November 2020 was its strongest sales month in more than 15 years.
“Twenty-twenty has been an immensely disruptive year in retail, and direct selling is emerging as one of the big success stories of the last few months,” says Natalie Berg, Founder of NBK Retail and chair of the roundtable. “Many [direct-to-consumer] brands have demonstrated successful ‘pandemic pivots’ to accelerate digital transformation and adapt the way they do business to suit the changing way in which we are all shopping now in response to the Covid-19 situation. Direct selling will certainly be a channel to watch in 2021.”
The survey also pointed to a strong salesforce, with a 46.4% increase in the number of distributors joining in 2020. Usborne Books at Home, in particular, reported a 101% increase in the number of representatives joining the brand.
“We anticipated reasonably strong growth for direct-to-consumer retail at the start of 2020, but no one could have predicted what happened following Covid-19,” says Susannah Schofield OBE, Director General of The Direct Selling Association. “Despite considerable uncertainty for many brands in March and April, direct-to-consumer retailers rapidly adapted to serve customers when other more traditional forms of retail were closed during lockdown. With low overheads and the ability to be far nimbler than many traditional channels, I expect to see strong sales via the channel into 2021, particularly given the considerable growth in people joining brands to earn this way as independent salespeople.”
Pre-COVID numbers estimate that approximately 563,000 people are involved in direct sales in the UK.