Direct sales strong

Margaret Smith enjoys a party – especially one where she can make some money.

That’s why Smith became the first Sabika Jewelry consultant in Johnstown in September 2009.

“I had a party, and the women who attended were enchanted with the jewelry. They had a good time trying it on. It is all about fun, so I decided to sign on to have a little bit of fun,” Smith said. “This is a party business; we all like to have a party.”

Smith, who is now a director consultant, is among the 15.9 million people in the United States involved in direct selling. The number of people involved in direct selling in the U.S. increased 1.9 percent to 15.9 million in 2012 from 15.6 million in 2011, according to the Direct Selling Association.

The 2012 estimated retail sales of $31.63 billion for direct selling were up 5.9 percent in the U.S. from $29.87 billion in 2011.

The U.S. market increase of 5.9 percent in 2012 accelerated an upward trend after bottoming out in 2009. Direct sales grew 0.8 percent in 2010 and 4.6 percent in 2011.

“Overall, the industry is growing stronger in sellers and sales. We have survived the recession pretty well,” DSA spokeswoman Amy Robinson said.

Sabika Jewelry, started in Pittsburgh in 2001 by Karin Mayr, a native of Austria, is handmade in Austria. With more than 600 consultants in 42 states, Sabika is one of the newer and fastest-growing direct selling companies.

Sabika is experiencing approximately 60 percent growth in sales year over year and is expected to reach an annual sales volume of nearly $20 million this year, Mayr said.

“Between Johnstown and Altoona, we have increased our sales 150 to 160 percent in the past year,” said Kristy McNeil, Sabika field manager. “These girls are finding a niche and are able to benefit from the Sabika opportunity.”

Mayr said she is not surprised by the growth of her jewelry business. She said there is no typical customer for her products.

“I wanted to design it for all walks of life – from the 79-year-old white-haired woman to the teenager,” Mayr said. “If it doesn’t go with jeans, khakis or black, it doesn’t make the collection. We want women to feel like women again.”

Smith said her sales have more than doubled since she began. She helped close friend Kellie Cover of Johnstown, now a director consultant, get involved with Sabika in May 2011.

“I really enjoyed buying the jewelry. I was a good customer first,” said Cover, a fourth-grade teacher at Westmont Hilltop Elementary School.

“I am shocked at how my business has grown over the last two years,” Cover said. “I am truly speechless with the outcome; it has been more than I ever imagined it could be.”

Karen Moran of Altoona started selling Sabika Jewelry in September 2007 after her daughter, Meghan, a Pittsburgh attorney (who also sells Sabika), brought some pieces home.

“I fell in love with it, so I just called the company. I had no intention of doing it, but I am selling it with no regrets at all,” said Moran, a star director.

Other direct selling companies also are doing very well.

Mary Kay Inc., a skin care and color cosmetics company, is marking its 50th year in business.

With 2.5 million Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultants and $3 billion in global annual wholesale sales, Mary Kay is a top beauty brand and direct seller in more than 35 markets around the world.

Sharon Albarano of Duncansville started selling Mary Kay products 32 years ago as a teenager.

“I tried the product and liked it and thought this would be a great opportunity to do something part time. I have always been able to make it work, and after 32 years, I am still here,” Albarano said. “I’ve had some of the same customers from when I started. I have a great customer base.”

Ann Knab of Tyrone has been selling Mary Kay products for 20 years, and her business has grown considerably.

“Makeup is recession-proof; women always find the money to buy their mascara,” Knab said. “I looked into some other things, but I liked their philosophy: God first, family second, career third. I also like the fact that makeup can change women’s lives, it is a real pick-me-up for women, it makes you feel good all over.”

The Pampered Chef, started in 1980 by Doris Christopher, is the largest direct seller of high-quality kitchen tools sold by independent consultants in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany and Mexico, said spokeswoman Kate Johnston.

Today, The Pampered Chef has more than 60,000 independent sales consultants and serves more than 12 million customers annually, Johnston said.

Cindy Rumbaugh of Cresson has been a consultant since April 2005.

“I was in need of some extra money and didn’t want to put my children in day care. I thought this would be a good fix. I was looking for something but was not sure what. I am glad I picked Pampered Chef. I really enjoy the parties and the customer service,” Rumbaugh said.

Another popular product is lia sophia jewelry, formerly known as Lady Remington jewelry.

Robin Miller of Tyrone, a lia sophia unit manager, decided to sell lia sophia because of its reputation.

“It had a reputation of being a high-quality product that I could offer and sell to my customers and the good opportunity that it offered me. It is a nice supplement for my teaching income. My clientele has at least tripled over the last four years.” said Miller, a second-grade teacher at Myers Elementary in Bellwood.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.