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August 01, 2011

Cover Story

O Canada!—A Look Inside Our Northern Neighbor’s Direct Selling World

DSA of Canada

by J.M. Emmert

From far and wide, more than 900,000 Canadians are finding that direct selling has an unlimited capacity to create income earning opportunities.

The direct selling industry in Canada, the 14th largest market in the world with total retail sales of more than $1.3 billion in 2009, is a dynamic segment of the Canadian economy. It has seen sales grow 11.2 percent in the last five years and sustained a 10 to 20 percent increase over the last decade.

The Prairie Provinces—Alberta and British Columbia—continue to lead the country in share of market penetration, with Alberta recording sales per capita of $63.97. Ontario and Quebec are showing marginal increases over last year, with strong performances coming from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Atlantic Canada.

As a delivery channel in Canada, direct selling offers consumers access to hundreds of products, from food and nutritional items to clothing, cosmetics and jewelry. While non-store retail (catalogs, online sales) is common in the country, direct selling is the only personalized, interactive channel; for the many who cannot find what they need in local stores or do not have Internet access—26 percent of direct selling consumers live in rural areas and over 13 percent are over the age of 65—the industry provides the goods that they might not otherwise find.

Currently, 75 companies comprise Canada’s direct selling industry, with more than two-thirds of them—including such household names as Amway, Avon, Mary Kay, Nu Skin, PartyLite, Regal Gifts, Tupperware and USANA—participating as active members of the Direct Sellers Association of Canada.

Standing Guard

Watching over the industry is the DSA of Canada, established in 1954 and today recognized by Canada’s federal and provincial governments as a highly respected and effective organization.

The DSA is devoted to preserving the integrity of the direct selling industry in Canada. It works on behalf of member firms to address important issues, educate the public and enforce the high standards set forth in its Code of Ethics. 

“We have had a very strong government relations program for decades, with a proven track record of being able to influence, change and protect the industry against unnecessary or onerous legislation at both the federal and provincial levels,” says Ross Creber, President of the DSA. “We have our finger on the pulse of government at all levels, monitoring issues, consulting regulatory bodies and officials and lobbying on behalf of the association.”

The DSA also offers many of the same services, albeit on a smaller scale, that the U.S. DSA provides to its members, including education and training through its annual conferences; workshops and seminars throughout the year on such topics as tax, health, industry trends, and best practices; and providing updates through its newsletter and timely updates on developments in the marketplace. It also has a resource base of industry research data collected through its Socio-Economic Impact Studies, Quick Polls, and Pulse Surveys as well as data on the diverse cultural groups in Canada.

In addition, the DSA has a program available to independent sales contractors (ISCs) and employees of member companies—the DSA Rewards Program, that provides a wide range of products and services. “We have discounts on gasoline, office supplies, health and dental insurance, home auto insurance and much more,” says Creber. 

Canada Beckons

The work of the DSA is paving the way for international companies to expand their operations into Canada. Creber believes this is one of the best times for direct sellers to consider entering the Canadian market.

“The DSA has always encouraged companies to come to Canada,” he says. “For those considering international expansion, Canada is the first market to consider for a number of reasons.”

Those reasons include the fact that Canada is a very mature and receptive direct selling market that has tremendous consumer support and acceptance. It is a great market to test a company’s infrastructure before moving forward to other more distant markets.

It also has two official languages (English and French), provides close proximity to the United States and offers a diverse multicultural population.

“Some additional considerations are that the productivity of Canadian direct sellers is generally higher than those in the United States, and many companies who have started their international expansion in Canada have used the profits to help fund startups in other markets,” says Creber.

And lastly, Canada has a strong DSA that is there to support member companies and its independent consultants.

“If a company is marketing products in Canada and is not a part of the DSA, they do not have an opportunity to have their voice heard,” Creber adds.