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June 01, 2012

Cover Story

2012 DSN Global 100: The Top Direct Selling Companies in the World

by J.M. Emmert

Click here to go to the 2013 DSN Global 100

Table of Contents

IntroGlobal OutlookWhy the Global 100?The 2012 DSN Global 100: The Top 10The 2012 DSN Global 100: 11-100 •        Topping the ChartsDSN Global 100The $100 Million ClubCelebrating the DSN Global 100

Bravo Awards
Bravo Humanitarian Award: Nu SkinBravo Growth Award: ViSalusBravo Leadership Award: Doug DeVos

Click here to order the Direct Selling News issue in which this article appeared.

The Global Outlook for Direct Selling

by J.M. Emmert

The following report on the global outlook for direct selling is supplemented by 2010 statistics from the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations (WFDSA) Global Statistical Report, which was published in November 2011, as well as Direct Selling News’ “Direct Selling’s Billion Dollar Markets,” published in April 2012.

The direct selling industry is alive and thriving. Many of the top direct selling companies in the world enjoyed increases in worldwide sales in 2011, and forecasts for the rest of 2012 and beyond offer promising outlooks.

Avon, the No. 1 direct seller in the world, reported strong performances in several key markets, including Mexico, which reported double-digit growth. In fact, 83 percent of Avon’s consolidated revenue for 2011 was derived from operations outside the United States.

Amway reported that eight of its top nine markets—China, India, Korea, Malaysia, Russia, Thailand, Taiwan and Ukraine—reported strong sales increases in 2011. China, India, Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Vietnam and the Latin American region all posted double-digit increases in 2011. Only Japan, which dealt with the after-effects of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, recorded flat sales.

Herbalife, which has a presence in 79 countries, reported that 80 percent of its 2011 net sales—that is, $2.8 billion—was generated outside the United States. Mexico had a 30.8 percent increase; South and Central America, a 42 percent increase; EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa), a 16.6 percent increase; Asia-Pacific, a 37.3 percent increase, and China a 14.3 percent increase.

USANA, which distributes and sells its product in 15 markets, saw an increase in 2011 net sales in its Asia-Pacific region, which included Hong Kong and the emerging markets China, the Philippines and South Korea. Net sales in Hong Kong increased 29.0 percent; in China, 208.9 percent; in the Philippines, 138.9 percent; and in South Korea, 62.9 percent.

The following provides an overview of direct selling’s four major regions—Asia-Pacific, North America, Latin America and Europe/Africa—with 2010 published statistics and outlooks for 2012–2013.

Global Outlook

DSASignifies that a DSA Office has been established in that country or region.

North America
  • Percent of total global sales: 24%
  • Percent of total global sellers: 19%
  • Billion-Dollar Markets: United States and Canada

Latin America

  • Percent of total global sales: 18%
  • Percent of total global sellers: 17%
  • Billion-Dollar Markets: Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru


  • Percent of total global sales: 16%
  • Percent of total global sellers: 10%
  • Billion-Dollar Markets: Germany, Russia, Italy, France, United Kingdom, South Africa


  • Percent of total global sales: 42%
  • Percent of total global sellers: 53%
  • Billion-Dollar Markets: Japan, China, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Australia

Billion-Dollar Markets
(2010 Sales)

1. U.S.: $28.6B
2. Japan: $22.7B
3. China: $12.5B
4. Brazil: $10.8B
5. South Korea: $8.9B
6. Mexico: $5.6B
7. Germany: $3.8B

8. Russia: $3.3B
9. Italy: $3.2B
10. France: $2.4B
11. Canada: $2.1B
12. Malaysia: $2.1B
13. Taiwan: $1.9B
14. Thailand: $1.9B

15. U.K.: $1.8B
16. Colombia: $1.7B
17. Australia: $1.5B
18. Argentina: $1.4B
19. Venezuela: $1.2B
20. South Africa: $1.1B
21. Peru: $1.05B

Global Direct Sales Breakdown by Product Category



In 2010, the Asia-Pacific region had $55.6 billion in retail sales, with Japan accounting for nearly 40 percent of all sales with $22.7 billion. Other top markets in the region included China ($12.5 billion), South Korea ($8.8 billion), Malaysia ($2.1 billion), and Taiwan and Thailand, each with $1.9 billion.

The Asia-Pacific region accounted for 42 percent of global sales for the direct selling industry in 2010. Three countries—Japan, China and South Korea—accounted for one-third of the $132 billion in global retail sales. According to the WFDSA, the Asia-Pacific salesforce of 47.3 million people represented 54 percent of the total global salesforce of 87.7 million.

Forecasts call for the region to continue to experience significant growth in the coming years, bolstered by the strong presence of established companies, and supported by direct selling companies and DSAs that have worked to create appropriate policies, put controls and ethical standards in place and foster government understanding of the industry. Additionally, a very strong work ethic exists in Asia, with a great entrepreneurial spirit among its people who desire to own their own businesses.

Grant Pace, Co-Founder of Joy Life International, which launched in China in 2009, says, “Asia will continue to grow dramatically, and I expect we will see existing companies grow significantly, even in markets where they have a strong presence now.”

In Australia, the No. 16 market in the world as ranked by DSN, more than 70 direct selling companies offer a wide range of products to Australian consumers. Sixty percent of the companies are small- or medium-sized enterprises and 40 percent are controlled by foreign interests. It is estimated that almost half a million Australians are engaged in the direct selling industry.

“Direct selling has a bright future in Australia, particularly in the personal-care and complementary health-care markets,” says John Holloway, Executive Director of the Direct Selling Association of Australia. “And why shouldn’t it, with its quality products, evolving business models, distributors with the product knowledge, trust and service often lacking in mainstream retail, and its appetite for social media, the natural networking tool? The imagination and commitment that has established our industry will assure its future.”

North America

In 2010, North America accounted for $30.6 billion in retail sales. The United States accounted for $28.6 billion while Canada reported $2.1 billion.

The Unites States retained its position as the largest direct selling market in the world, accounting for 22 percent of global direct sales for 2010.

To the north, Ross Creber, President of the Direct Sellers Association of Canada, says the Canadian market continues to be a very receptive market for direct selling. Creber notes that there exists a high degree of consumer acceptance for direct selling among the Canadian population, even as the channel remains somewhat underpenetrated in terms of percent of retail sales.

“While retail sales of our members in 2010 declined 6 percent, more than CAN$1.3 billion was reported, and the number of independent sales consultants (ISCs) increased by 12 percent,” says Creber. “The industry represents 16 percent of non-store retail sales in Canada, and it continues to make significant economic and social contributions to Canadians and the nation by injecting billions of dollars in sales into the marketplace, contributing millions in taxes that impact education, health services and community growth, and donating millions to charities.”

Latin America

In 2010, Latin America accounted for $23.7 billion in sales. Brazil led the way with $10.8 billion, followed by Mexico ($5.6 billion), Colombia ($1.7 billion), Argentina ($1.4 billion), Venezuela ($1.2 billion) and Peru ($1.05 billion).

Brazil continues to be the dominant market in Latin America, with nearly double its closest competitor, Mexico. According to the consulting firm A. T. Kearney, Brazil is experiencing a growth rate of 7 percent to 8 percent per year, with sales growing four times faster than the 2 percent annual growth rate in the United States. The country has traditionally been a large consumer of personal-care and beauty products, and projections are for that consumption to outpace developed markets, including the United States, in the next five years.

Peru, which joined the DSN billion-dollar markets list this year, experienced significant growth in 2011 despite the country’s economic woes. According to CAPEVEDI (Camara Peruana de Venta Directa), the Peruvian Chamber of Direct Selling, direct selling continued to expand not only in the capital city of Lima, but also in the provinces, which represent 47 percent of independent entrepreneurs. The country, which experienced its strongest growth between 2004 and 2009—with an average rate of 24 percent per year—is now generating income for more than 350,000 independent entrepreneurs, more than 90 percent of whom are women.

“The future perspective in Peru looks favorable because [direct selling] allows thousands of Peruvians to generate their own businesses,” says Cinthia Ramirez Santillana, Administrator of CAPEVEDI. In fact, CAPEVEDI estimates that in 2021 the per capita income will be around US$12,000, growing 42 percent compared to 2011, and thus generating more income that will contribute to reducing poverty in the country.


In 2010, the Europe/Africa region accounted for $22 billion in retail sales. Germany led the way with $3.8 billion, followed by Russia ($3.3 billion), Italy ($3.2 billion), France ($2.4 billion) and the UK ($1.8 billion).

Maurits Bruggink, Executive Director of Seldia (the European Direct Selling Association), believes that the direct selling sector will continue to show positive growth throughout Europa in 2012. “Some markets will show more than average growth, notably in Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, Ukraine, the Baltics and Poland. Turkey, which generally challenges the definition BRICS (emerging markets Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), will also continue its performance with double-digit growth figures.” 

According to Bruggink, the growth in these emerging markets is explained by four factors: a strong demand for Western (branded) products—in particular, cosmetics and household products; a strong general economic development with increased consumer spending; a spirit for entrepreneurship and creation of personal wealth; and moderate regulation compared to more mature markets.

“Markets in Western and Southern Europe will show single-digit growth, although some markets are affected by the financial and economic crisis,” says Bruggink. “Germany remains the largest direct selling market and will benefit from the general economic upturn.” 

While there is also an optimistic outlook for France and the Scandinavian countries, which benefit from increased government recognition and support, the outlook for Italy, the second-largest direct selling market in the European Union, remains uncertain due to the unknown effects of the financial crisis on this heavily indebted, but also heavily industrialized, country.

In the UK, Paul Southworth, Director-General of the UK Direct Selling Association, says the recent resurgence of direct selling can be attributed in part to the voluntary code of practice under which the industry is regulated: that is, capping the entry cost for those signing up for direct selling companies. In addition, the industry is gaining upside from new business models and social media as well as an influx of men into the traditionally female-dominated channel; in 2011, there was 26 percent more men involved in direct selling than in 2010.

South Africa, which landed on the DSN billion-dollar markets list at No. 20, will continue to offer opportunities for the unemployed, which currently sits at nearly 25 percent of the population. According to Richard Clarke, Chairman of the DSA South Africa, “Direct selling is a huge industry around the world, the growth of which is outstripping economic growth in most countries, and has yet to reach its full potential in South Africa. The opportunities are, therefore, enormous.”

Global Industry Research Update

The newly formed research team created by the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations has taken on the very ambitious task of making global direct selling statistics available to the world. The work and output of this group is essential to a better understanding of the direct selling channel globally. Quotes from a few key members of the team reflect the bold new agenda:

“The research team is making solid progress toward achieving our 2012 objectives:

  • Standardizing the process of global statistical data collection, thus bringing a higher level of credibility to the direct selling industry, and enhancing industry government affairs and media relations efforts.
  • Sizing the entire direct selling industry, both member and non-member companies.
  • Improving timing of research results, with an announcement in early June at the WFDSA CEO Council Meeting & Board Meeting.”
    —Judy Jones, Amway/Global Research Sub-committee Chair

    “Credible research is so important! It can be used to guide strategy development at the industry level and for all member companies. The large companies generally have the resources to do their own research. But DSAs globally and the WFDSA provide this amazing research service that can greatly help the medium- and small-sized companies develop their long-term thinking. This, in turn, helps all companies.”
    —JJ LeBlanc, Mary Kay Cosmetics

    “Early figures have shown there has been year-over-year growth. We’re excited about using the data to drive insights and action, including telling the great story of direct selling to audiences globally.”
    —Tamuna Gabilaia, WFDSA Executive Director

Marilynn Hood contributed to this report.