Who remembers Tupperware parties?
Today’s post is written by Ivy Ray, Account Manager at SafeSourcing Inc.
Who remembers Tupperware parties? I was recently viewing an actual original marketing promotion of Tupperware products, while watching movies on the Turner Classic Movie channel. It certainly stirred up old memories of a time when everyone I knew owned a set of the colorful, stackable food storage containers. There is also a sales lesson to be learned here.
When Earl Tupper first introduced that molded plastic bowl with the airtight lid, people did not want it. It sat on the store shelves until a woman named Brownie Wise took sales to a new level by implementing the direct marketing sales strategy known as the “Tupperware Party”. The parties were revolutionary in that they offered an alternative model for commercial success based around female co-operation rather than aggressive competition. It was a “perfect storm” where the product and the sales method were conducive to post-war era housewives who could gather together in a social setting and make money. Sales grew into a world-wide, multimillion-dollar success for Tupperware which continued throughout the 50s and 60s, but fell off sharply after the 70s when women joined the workforce in record numbers.
This formula proved to be commercially successful, but Tupperware was not the first to use this sales model. The J.D. Larkin Company, a soap manufacturer in Buffalo, New York, dramatically grew company’s annual sales from about $220,000 in 1892 to over $15 million in 1906. “The Larkin Idea” enlisted a dedicated army of small-town and rural women to serve as de facto sales agents. Larkin was among the first large-scale manufacturers to eliminate all dealers—wholesalers, retailers, traveling salesmen, and brokers, representing the entire middle of the distribution chain.
Tupperware enjoyed a huge wave of success and then leveled off in the 90s. It was a big thing, which was good while it lasted. Sales of Larkin products were buoyant through the 1910s, and tapered off in 1920 at around $28 million. Over the past couple of decades there have been other companies which have adopted the direct sales format, adding their own twist.
The right sales strategy is key, and change is inevitable. There is something to be said for knowing when to make the right change at the right time. Be ready to ride the wave when the next perfect storm comes, or you may just get washed out and eaten by the sharks!
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