Although current events suggest otherwise, not all retail businesses are sinking due to economic woes. Paperly, a Chicago-based retailer that sells personalized stationery via fun, social, at-home parties, is thriving even in this down market.

There are numerous reason why direct-sales businesses, which include well-respected companies like Paperly (personalized stationery), The Pampered Chef (kitchen products), Avon (beauty supplies) and Silpada Designs (jewelry), are successful even when the overall retail sector is freefalling.

First, attendees are invited to direct sales parties by friends and family members, thereby increasing the likelihood they will attend. Compare this personal invitation to the traditional retail store, which impersonally waits in hope for a customer to walk through its doors, and it immediately becomes evident why at-home parties are typically packed with enthusiastic buyers.

Second, direct-sales events are highly social parties that provide stay-at-home moms (the target customer) an opportunity to hang-out with a diverse group of friends, while drinking a glass of wine or munching on a decadent dessert without – gasp! – their children in tow. Such a fun, interactive, and perhaps most important, comfortable environment is ripe for attendees to kick-back, relax and buy, all-the-while “showing off” their favorite products and purchases.

Third, the direct-sales channel provides unique benefits to all constituents.

* Customers, by far the most important ingredient in the mix, can purchase one-of-a-kind products, at very competitive prices, in a fun atmosphere.

* Hostesses can earn a wide selection of free or significantly discounted products, while inviting their closest friends and family members to their home for a relatively quick and painless, yet entertaining party.

* Consultants can earn a meaningful supplemental income, while maintaining a well balanced work/life schedule.

Clearly, only time will tell, but retail is not all doom-and-gloom; the direct-sales industry is certainly a sector to watch in 2009.

Photo by PinkMoose