• Last year, sales of direct sellers in South Africa fell by 5%.
  • Some 23% of their full-time representatives have also stopped selling, according to an industry body.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider SA

The tough economy has had a big impact on direct sellers in South Africa: sales fell last year, and almost a quarter of their full-time sellers quit.

Direct sellers offer their products through representatives, who earn a commission on their sales. At some companies, representatives are encouraged to recruit other sellers, and can also earn money from their sales.

According to Netwerk24, the Direct Sellers Association (DSA) in South Africa, which represents 31 companies - including Avon, Herbalife,  AMC Cookware, Amway, Annique, Avroy Shlain, SH'ZEN and Tupperware - reported this week that their total sales in 2018 amounted to R12.8 billion - 5% less than the R13.47 billion in 2017. In contrast, direct sales grew in most other countries.

Cornelle van Graan, chair of the DSA, said at a DSA conference this week that members are struggling for "the first time" in South Africa.

The number of full-time sellers declined by 23% last year, with more than 230,000 people leaving the industry.

Van Graan told Netwerk24 that usually through tough economic times, there continues to be a flood of people who want to join their networks.

Still, more than a million people continue to sell products, with an increase in part-time sellers, reports Netwerk24,

While there was a sharp fall in the number of people aged between 35 and 44 years who continued to sell products, there was a 2% increase in those between 18 to 35. Van Graan says the DSA will focus on the younger population and is hoping for stronger growth this year.

Elsewhere on the continent there was stronger growth in direct sales.

Across the world, the top country for direct selling last year was China ($35.7 billion), followed by the US ($35.3 billion) and South Korea ($18 billion).

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