Tue, March 31, 2009
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Home shopping shines as retail slumps

2009-03-31 02:05:06 GMT2009-03-31 10:05:06 (Beijing Time)  Reuters

As fashion retailers fight to survive in a recession, the direct selling business is booming in the UK.

When Catrine Stothers from London started her new job she didn't imagine it would be this much fun.

Tonight Catrine is at a friends house.

She's one of a growing number of women running a direct sales business through house parties.

The product is "Captain Tortue", a French designer range of clothing which can only be bought through direct sales.

SOUNDBITE: Catrine Stothers, Sales Consultant for Captain Tortue, saying (English):

"Business is absolutely booming, it's phenomenal, i'm just doing party after party. Every time I do a party I get at least three bookings for another party. In fact I can't keep up with it. I haven't got enough hours in the day."

The UK's direct-selling market represents almost 3 billion dollars in sales and employs around 400,000 people.

Catrine will typically earn around 20 percent from the evening's sales.

Some agents can earn as much as 150,000 dollars a year.

Catrine attributes her success to taking the pressure off and making her customers feel relaxed.

SOUNDBITE: Lizzy Sizeland, saying (English):

"I've been to a few other things where its been cosmetics and make up and its really nice to be able to try things in someone's house without the sort of pressure of a sales person. You know you don't feel you have to buy something."

SOUNDBITE: Madalaine Wilson, saying (English):

"Maybe people are put off by going to the shops at the moment, just the idea of going shopping, you kind of suddenly think do I really need to. Whereas if it's an evening out with some friends or a lunchtime thing, perhaps you're more likely to do it because it's more of a social thing than a shopping trip so to speak."

Research shows direct selling does typically well in a recession.

The latest figures from the Direct Selling Association show new recruits are up 20 percent from a year ago.

But what does all this mean for the high street.

Stephen Alambritis is chief spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses.

SOUNDBITE: Stephen Alambritis, The Federation of Small Businesses, saying (English):

"The direct selling industry has a place but we still want to keep trade local. We still want landlords to let out their premises in the high street coz the last thing you want is ghost ridden towns with empty properties littered with charity shops. But we believe that the direct selling industry can live side by side with the retail sector."

Madalaine Wilson has no plans to stop visiting her high street.

But she's always ready for change.

And it's not just the latest look she's after.

With direct selling she can also enjoy the latest shopping trend, without venturing too far from home.

Hayley Platt, Reuters.

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