Evolution of the Direct Selling Industry


Direct selling is the marketing and selling of products and services away from a fixed retail location. In this channel the independent sales representatives reach and deal directly with the final clients.

The first manifestations, of what we today know as direct selling, appeared in the Middle Ages. In that time the street vendors of England traveled through the country selling domestic products. Then, in the nineteenth century the street vendors started appeared in the United States providing services to isolated communities, they visited the homes of the people looking for a positive response from the homemakers. In 1851 the first direct selling company was born, when Isaac Singer decided to visit the home of his clients to show them the features and functionality of his sewing machines.

In 1886 David McConnell started to sell books, bringing them door to door to his customers. He offered a free perfume with each product, aiming to increase his sales. McConnell realized that the perfumes were more appealing for the people than books and decided to change the focus of his company, creating the “California Perfume Company”, that later became Avon.

In the next years the direct selling model was implemented for different types of products such as the toothbrushes of Fuller Brush and the vacuum cleaners of Electrolux.

In 1932 emerged the concept of Party Plan with the company Stanhome. This model is a way of selling products by holding a social event in homes. The Party Plan model became popular when Eral Tupper created Tupperware and started to sell his lightweight, non-breakable plastic containers in home parties.

In the 40’s Nutrilite came out with a new direct selling model known as Multilevel Marketing (MLM) to commercialize its vitamin, mineral and dietary supplements, that needed personalized instructions for use. The company promoted the creation of distributor networks and differentiated pay plan. Later on Nutrilite was acquired by Amway that now days is the biggest direct selling company worldwide. 



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