The European Spirit of Direct Selling in the Post Pandemic Era

May 18, 2022
By Beatrice Nelson Beer, Chief Legal Officer, PM International, and President, Seldia

The past couple of years have been defining for Europe and the world. As the pandemic brought forth challenges we could not have imagined, direct selling leaders used the opportunity to adapt, modernize, and transform into a more diverse industry.

Direct selling demonstrated an impressive ability to thrive in difficult conditions during this unprecedented period. Our channel’s ability to innovate changed our entire industry’s land-scape.

Opportunities in Our Sector

The pandemic emphasized the necessity and power of digital platforms and emerging technologies. Companies and distributors had to find new ways to reach customers. A robust presence online became a powerful tool for interacting with the field. Companies had to quickly modernize their logistics, communications, and business practices to make way for this new digital-first approach. Where digital resources were once an advantage, now they are a must.

In Europe, we see innovation with a renewed sense of energy not experienced in a long time. People are ready for a new normal.

Companies in Europe have transitioned to virtual content as well as in-person experiences and, as restrictions lighten, to hybrid meetings and events. The distributor salesforce embraced new ways of doing business by taking full advantage of their online presence. We know we feel a special energy when we get together in person at meetings, gatherings, and events. Online has its advantages, too, now that direct selling companies have revolutionized the tools for working from home. New customers are only a video call away!

The pandemic created another opportunity for many of our companies that have caring for health as core to their purpose. According to Seldia’s Direct Selling in Europe 2020 Statistics Overview, the EU wellness market—with 57 percent of total sales—is the biggest for our industry, followed closely by cosmetics and personal care products. With approximately 27 billion Euros a year,i this is a significant segment of the industry! The statistics for 2021, to be published at the end of June, will provide an interesting picture of the second year of the pandemic.

This labor crisis exposed by the pandemic emphasizes the need for EU countries to develop proactive gender policies. According to a case study commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs, “These two years of pandemic have translated into an increase in female unemployment rates.”ii The European Commission stated that the situation for women in the labor market is that their responsibilities as a parent or as a caregiver of family relatives are obstacles and the most likely explanation for why women only work part-time jobs.iii

Company practices in the sector can help achieve a more gender-equal economic recovery. More than 6.6 million people are active in direct selling in the EU, and 79 percent are women.iv In a world where remote working is the new norm, we have an opportunity to offer women a better work–life balance. They can build a business, have time for loved ones, and be trained and supported in this journey by our companies.

Seldia’s Leadership Changes

As the leading association for direct selling in Europe, Seldia adapted during the pandemic to create a trustworthy environment for consumers and direct sellers. With more than 50 years of setting the highest standards of the sector in Europe, Seldia represents and promotes the interests of twenty-five member DSAs and fifteen direct selling companies. Not a task to be taken lightly!

Currently, Seldia is led by an all-women team of staff members and a board of directors that is 50 percent comprised of women. As the first women president of Seldia, I believe that the pandemic created new opportunities for correcting structural gender inequalities.

We have learned to embrace change with a solution-oriented mindset that focuses on our sector’s future possibilities.

Seldia reformed its governance and services to members to make its communications more transparent. Seldia Square is a new platform that provides instant and constant access to tailored analysis on European and International policies affecting our sector, enables collaborative consultations, and securely shares meeting documents among the members. Seldia created the Seldia Sphere, a bimonthly newsletter with updates on activities from Seldia and DSAs across Europe, and The Bubble from Brussels to highlight the policies of the European Union affecting direct selling.

These changes highlight our efforts to make Seldia more accountable, participative, and transparent.

Seldia is an active member of the European Commission consultative groups on consumer policy. Along with other consumer organizations, we join in multi-stakeholder dialogues to build a mutual understanding of each other. Seldia works closely with other industry stakeholders in Brussels, such as Eurocommerce and FEDMA, to deepen our expertise and amplify our messages.

Represented by Seldia, direct selling in Europe has a clear vision for the future.

Direct Selling Represents the Best of Europe

Direct selling in the EU rose to the challenge of the pandemic as a transformed, more diverse, more technologically innovative industry and community.

Change does not happen overnight, and the challenges in Europe are far from over. As president of Seldia, I am tasked with expanding the boundaries of our sector in Europe.

The biggest opportunities are yet to come. With dedication, patience, and time, we will see positive results from the agility and resilience of our formidable sector. One thing is for sure, the complex problems of these times require critical thinking and creativity from all our stakeholders.

The pandemic has created a before and after era for many of us. Now that we may be finally looking at the end of the tunnel, it is time to strengthen our position as a consolidated sector and promote the unique opportunities of direct selling. My task as president of Seldia is to lead this transformative industry in Europe toward a successful hybrid model, where both digital and personal connections come as one in this post-pandemic era.

i Seldia’s Direct Selling in Europe 2020 Statistics Overview

ii COVID-19 and its economic impact on women and women’s poverty. European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the FEMM Committee https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2021/693183/IPOL_STU(2021)693183_EN.pdf

iii European Commission Women’s situation in the labour market https://ec.europa.eu/info/policies/justice-and-fundamental-rights/gender-equality/women-labour-market-work-life-balance/womens-situation-labour-market_en

iv Seldia’s Direct Selling in Europe 2020 Statistics Overview

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  • May 2022