Turning a Corner?

No doubt you’ve seen or read stories about the group of expert economists who recently declared that the Great Recession is officially over. I doubt it feels that way to many of you.

The recession has hit the direct selling business in about the way we expected. According to our latest Growth & Outlook survey, the number of people engaged in direct selling grew to a record 16.1 million in 2009. The same thing happened during previous downturns, when many people turned to direct selling to replace lost income.

Sales last year fell slightly, to $28.6 billion. That’s somewhat disappointing, but even our resilient industry felt the pressure of the economic headwinds of the last two years. Consistent with the experience of previous recessions, though, direct selling still outperformed retail, which saw a decline of more than 7%, compared to about 4% for direct selling.

I’ve been traveling quite a bit lately (part of the reason why it’s been so long since my last post!). Everywhere I go, people share stories about how direct selling has helped them and their families. Some turned to it for the first time when a family member lost a job. Others had dabbled, but ramped up their businesses to provide themselves a little extra financial security. All were thankful for the opportunity.

A colleague recently told me that he attended a seminar here in Washington with two prominent administration officials. Their message: The economy may not be growing as fast as we’d like, but we’ve definitely turned the corner.

Maybe. I certainly hope so. What do you think?

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