“What do you think of when you think of comfort?” Tonja Fritsche asks the seven women gathered in the family room of a suburban home on a winter evening.
After hearing answers ranging from flannel pajamas to down comforters, Fritsche pauses to pet Sasha, the hostess’ dog, and tells the guests: “Jockey wants you to think of them.”
The gathering is one of the newest selling venues on the growing home-party industry circuit: a Jockey Person-to-Person party. The venture is the latest sales effort for Kenosha-based Jockey International Inc., the century-old underwear manufacturer.
By the end of the evening, Fritsche, an independent “comfort specialist” for Jockey Person-to-Person, has measured several women for bras and written $800 worth of orders for bras, panties, men’s boxers, robes and gym clothes. Fritsche earns a percentage on the sales total, and hostess Carol Kaehler gets free products for opening her home and providing snacks. Three guests booked parties of their own, so Kaehler ends up with 15% of $800 in free merchandise and the chance to buy seven items for half-price.
It’s a standard arrangement for Jockey, which racked up an estimated $29.7 billion in sales in 2004, up from $29.6 billion in 2003, according to the Direct Selling Association.
In the past it was unusual to see a big apparel brand sold in private homes, but that’s changing, according to association spokeswoman Amy Robinson. In addition to Jockey, Aerosoles shoes has launched a direct selling business, and Nine West, a brand owned by Jones Apparel, will launch a direct unit called Million Wishes in March.