TIPS for home-party success

The notion of having the opportunity to spend more time in front of prospective customers demonstrating the features and benefits of products and a variable cost structure that may mean higher profit margins are attracting more traditional retailers and catalogers to the home-party model.

They certainly appealed to The Body Shop, a 30-year-old retailer of personal-care products. In 2002 the company, whose U.S. operations are based in San Francisco, launched The Body Shop at Home. For the fiscal year ended Feb. 25, 2006, the division reported 9% sales growth over the previous year.

Paula Antonini, global director of development for The Body Shop at Home, has some advice for those considering a jump into the home-party business:

  1. Acknowledge that you don’t understand this unique way of doing business. Then hire the right person with the right experience to head up the division, and don’t get in his way. Otherwise you will find yourself making decisions based on flawed assumptions.

  2. Require key people to roll up their sleeves and walk in the shoes of a salesperson. If you are considering a party-plan approach, give managers a demo kit and ask them to hold parties. There is no better way to understand the business from the perspective of the salesperson.

  3. Consider carefully your pricing structure and the promotional offers in each of your channels and how they will affect one other. Retail is driven by luring customers into the store. A home-party business is driven by making sure the salesperson is motivated to pick up the phone and invite someone to host a party or participate in an offer. So identical offers across channels may not make sense; however, the party reps must feel that they have a level playing field.

  4. Be sure your company motivation matches the opportunity. Direct selling is not just another way to drive sales and profits; if you truly believe in the power of such a business to change lives through relationships and bring the brand and its value alive as well — as to create great financial opportunities, then you just might find amazing success!

  5. Have a strong story to tell. The home-party business is an emotional one. Many people join because they are drawn to the story around a company’s products or history. The most successful companies have an element that invites passion and commitment from the sales force, along with great products that really work.

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