Tupperware leading charge of networking marketing businesses
1970s-style party planning businesses are taking off in the social media age, writes Susan Edmunds.
If you think Tupperware parties went out with the 1980s, it is time to think again.
The international kitchenware giant and other so-called multilevel, or network marketing businesses are experiencing a resurgence as they tap into growing social media networks to boost sales.
Tupperware parties that might previously have been happening quietly in houses around your neighbourhood now come with an online invitation. In some cases, the parties themselves are conducted via Facebook.
READ MORE: The rise and rise of Tupperware
Jon Randles, of social media marketing firm Mosh, said network marketers were flocking to Facebook because it was a less confronting option for people who would normally be too shy to sell face-to-face.
"Everyone is trying to sell everything on social media these days," he said.
Tupperware would not provide a breakdown of New Zealand's sales figures, but in the 2015 financial year, it had US$2.28 billion in global sales, up from $1.74b in 2006 but down from US$2.6b in 2014. There is a Tupperware party somewhere in the world every 1.4 seconds, compared to every 1.7 seconds in 2011.
Christine Booth was this year appointed as the company's area development leader in Christchurch. She has signed up 20 new consultants in the past two months and wants more. "I started as a hobby but now it is a full-time income."
She now attends four or five parties a week and said shoppers liked the personal connection of buying Tupperware at a friend's house. "They're doing two things at once, shopping and socialising."
How does it work?
Although most of the companies offer jobs they claim will fit easily around family life, how much you earn depends on how much time you put in.
Most require an initial upfront investment in a kit and then offer commission from future sales.
Tupperware consultants do not have to pay anything upfront but only start earning commission when they pay off the price of their starter kit - the cheapest option is $1500.
Booth said it was not difficult to meet that target. "That can be done in two parties, the average party is about $750 or $800."
A consultant might then make $140 in income per party. Consultants are meant to sell $1500 of Tupperware a quarter although some the Sunday Star-Times spoke to said that was not strictly enforced.
Consultants can go on to become a manager, leading other units of demonstrators.
At essential oil firm Doterra, people can become a "wellness advocate" and access wholesale prices by paying a US$35 membership fee or purchasing a kit of oils, prices for which range from US$180 to US$3000. They then get items at 25 per cent off retail and can add that mark-up on when they sell to others.
Consultants also receive commissions on the sales of new salespeople they sign up and then the sales of people those people sign up, and so on. Loyalty bonuses vary depending on the level of sales made.
Doterra advocate Kate McGrath said: "We are networking all the time… it's almost the game everyone is playing these days. You can see ads on the TV or hear them on the radio but if someone you know tells you this is a great restaurant, you will trust that more."
She now has a team of 65 consultants.
University of Auckland marketing expert Bodo Lang said the growing success of the companies worked on the basis that people liked to feel a personal connection even in an increasingly digital world.
"They give people the opportunity to have a bit of an event. They know what is going to be involved, they know no one is going to do a hard sell and they get to hang out with people they are likely to get along with.
There can be downsides to watch for for budding businesspeople.
Tupperware recently introduced a smaller start-up kit but some still struggle to sell that amount.
One Tupperware consultant, who did not want to be named, said she had ended up paying for much of her $2500 start-up kit herself because she realised selling was not for her.
Booth said that was not common. "If they don't pay it off with sales they have the option of paying the balance, it does happen occasionally, it's not a big deal."
Many firms, such as Doterra and Zrii, will continue to send a previous order out each month unless it is amended.
Whangarei woman Rose Beckham said she stopped selling Amway because it was hard to move the stock fast enough. "It was sent automatically so we weren't going through stuff but it just kept coming."
Randles said salespeople would also need to keep a check on their marketing activity so that they did not alienate their friends.
"We say it should be like going to a party, if you are the one talking about yourself all the time, people start walking away and putting a bit of distance between you and them. With social media, you should be the life of the party, asking questions and adding value. Then people will reciprocate:"