There’s a reason it’s a product ‘party’

Marketplace Staff Oct 5, 2007

There’s a reason it’s a product ‘party’

Marketplace Staff Oct 5, 2007


Scott Jagow: If can’t stand going to the mall, and online shopping is a little too antisocial for you, there’s another way to shop.
It’s kind of old-school, but it’s making a comeback: the product party.

In the past decade, product parties have increased 50 percent to take an $8 billion share of the retail market. Reporter Alex Goldmark was invited to drop in on one.

Alex Goldmark: When you hear “product party,” what do you think of? Probably Tupperware, or . . . let’s call them “marital aides.”

Lisa Gillette: Today, we’re gonna have anywhere from 15 to 25 people here in our living room, at our home.

OK, it’s not a martial aid party. Lisa Gillette is selling Jockey-brand clothing. Like a growing number of traditional retail companies, Jockey is now expanding through party hosts, a.k.a “comfort specialists.”

Pat Winters of Jockey says personal experiences build much-needed brand loyalty.

Pat Winters: It was real . . . a true effort to get closer to the customers. And I think when you see the presentation you’re gonna see that the features, they’re touched, they’re felt, you know, they can feel them. So I think that it makes a big, big difference.

And we’re in Gillette’s home, surrounded by friends, having fun.

Gillette: Sometimes, people don’t have a changing area at these parties, and they’re just taking their clothes off in the middle of the living room in front of 10 women. They don’t care.

It’s part of the fun, and that’s apparently what sells. There’s also a 15-minute demonstration about the clothes, food, lots of wine, and aside from the sales rack in the dining room, it’s like any other party, with no men at all — except for me.

Twenty-five to 40 percent of all sales go to the “comfort specialist.” And by the end of this night, where almost everyone made a purchase, hostess Lisa Gillette made $1,300. Not bad for a part-time job once or twice a month.

Amy Robinson: Most people are involved in direct selling just for supplemental income, so say a couple hundred extra dollars a month.

Amy Robinson is a vice president at the Direct Selling Association. She says more types of products are available through parties than ever before.

Robinson: There are many traditional retail companies that are getting into direct selling, because they find it to be a great way to reach new consumer markets that they may not have otherwise reached.

For some customers who crave a personal touch, big-box discounters and a crowded mall just don’t stack up to a good old-fashioned party.

In Maplewood, New Jersey, I’m Alex Goldmark for Marketplace.

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