* Ding-Dong! Avon calling.
* Recession encourages informal sales of 1950s
* Part-time work helps pay the bills
By Edward McAllister
NEW YORK, July 31 The Tupperware party is back
and Avon is calling again, ushered in by the U.S. recession.
In the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression
of the 1930s, women are selling everything from eyeliner to
food containers to make extra cash -- boosting profits at
companies such as Avon (AVP.N) and Tupperware (TUP.N).
The flexibility of such work means that women, even with
existing jobs and kids to care for, are taking on direct sales
work in increasing numbers.
Food container-maker Tupperware, whose latest quarterly
profit beat expectations, said its sales force rose 4 percent
this quarter year on year.
Tupperware's popularity exploded in the 1950s as women of
the post-war generation sought empowerment and independence
through selling, and the recession has rekindled the spirit of
the Tupperware party for a new generation.
Tupperware sales rep Judy Montalbano, while hosting a
recent Tupperware party in the leafy New York City borough of
Queens said that she took the job in May because it was
flexible and paid good money.
She hosts about two Tupperware parties each week, but also
sports her Tupperware badge while out shopping in case a
selling opportunity arises.
"It does help pay the household bills and the extras," said
Montalbano. "My husband is looking to retire next year.
Everyone is looking to make extra money with the state of the
In a busy dining room with a table filled with Tupperware
products, from banana keepers to pencil cases, Montalbano gave
her sales pitch to half a dozen women.
"The parties are coming back stronger now that people are
staying at home more. They aren't going out as much so they
need to entertain at home," said Ellen Lessman, a party guest.
AVON, MARY KAY ALSO RISING
Tupperware is not alone.
Avon Products Inc, which sells beauty products and is
famous for its "Avon calling" slogan, posted
higher-than-expected second quarter profits and reported an 11
percent growth in active sales representatives year on year, to
5.8 million people worldwide.
"We've been successful at gaining representatives and
consumers during these tough economic times," said Andrea Jung,
Avon chairman and chief executive.
Mary Kay Inc, which also sells beauty products, saw its
sales forces hit 2 million for the first time this year, an
increase it puts down to the recession.
Women already with jobs are also taking on sales roles to
bolster existing income. Christine Calvanese, a nurse from
Staten Island in New York who works part time for Avon, said
that working to her own schedule made it ideal.
"It is nice to have another option, especially in this
economy," she said. "I knew it would be great to supplement my
other income with Avon."
Nicole Robinson, who works in the pharmaceutical industry
in Dallas, Texas, said she became a beauty consultant for Mary
Kay on the side last August because of a lack of job security.
"We are in a time where the job market is tightening. There
are companies all around in the industry that are pursuing lay
off situations," said Robinson, who has two young children. "I
wanted to make sure I was not affected by that."
The rush for sales jobs like these means companies that
have large ranks of "direct sales" personnel can swim against
the current of a recession, analysts say.
"The outlook for direct sellers as an industry is probably
pretty good in this environment, while many other companies in
the consumer world are wondering when they are going to get a
next sale," said Connie Maneaty, analyst of cosmetics, personal
care & household products at BMO Capital.
(Editing by Michelle Nichols and David Storey)