The USA Lost 8 Million MLM Distributors in 2018

The USA Lost 8 Million MLM Distributors in 2018

According to the 2018 DSA report and press release the USA has 6.2 million Direct Selling distributors, down approx. 8 million from other years due to “better separate direct sellers from customers”.

The DSA:

According to the “DSA 2019 Growth & Outlook Report: U.S. Direct Selling in 2018” released today by the Direct Selling Association (DSA) at its Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas, 2018 saw growth in retail sales, as well as the number of people selling and purchasing products and service through the direct sales channel.

Growth & Outlook is DSA’s annual survey that reports on the size and scope of direct selling in the U.S. and is audited by Nathan Associates, a third-party international economic consulting firm.

The annual Direct Selling Growth & Outlook Survey provided the following data on the industry:

Retail Sales

The direct selling channel generated $35.4 billion in retail sales in 2018 – up 1.3 percent from 2017. Wellness products remained the most popular product category in the U.S. in 2018, accounting for 35.6 percent of sales, followed by Services (22.6 percent), Home & Family Care/Durables (15.8 percent), Beauty & Personal Care (15.6 percent), Clothing & Accessories (7.7 percent) and Leisure/Educational (2.7 percent).

Direct Selling Population

The DSA further refined the 2018 data collection to better separate direct sellers from customers. This new research shows that the number of people selling products or services using the direct selling model grew 1.6 percent, with more than 6.2 million U.S. entrepreneurs selling in either a part-time or full-time basis.

Demographic breakdowns for both direct sellers and discount buyers include 6 percent (under 25); 19 percent (25-34); 26 percent (35-44); 24 percent (45-54); 17 percent (55-64); and 8 percent for 65 and older.

By gender, 75 percent of direct sellers in the United States in 2018 were women and 26.5 percent men. The percentage of women joining the channel increased by 1.5 percent from 2017 to 2018, men joining the channel dropped by 1.5 percent.

Ethnic and racial demographics for 2018 went unchanged from 2017. Eighty-five percent of those involved were White/Caucasian, 8 percent African American, 4 percent Asian, 1 percent American Indian or Native Alaskan, 1 percent Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander and 1 percent other not identified.

Demand for Direct Selling Products

The DSA said in their press release that in 2018, there were more than 36.6 million people actively buying through the direct sales channel, with notable growth coming from an increase in preferred customers. This customer count excludes those who have not signed an agreement with a direct selling company.

“The U.S. direct selling industry is moving in a very positive direction,” said Joseph N. Mariano, DSA president and chief executive officer. “Retail sales were strong, thanks largely to the U.S. direct sales force and their ability to attract millions and millions of customers.

The 2019 Growth & Outlook Survey also provided additional insights into the people involved in direct selling – particularly due to segmentation efforts – helping our member companies provide an even better experience for those who buy and sell through our channel. As we look forward and evaluate industry data, as well as national economic and retail projections, we believe the industry will continue to see modest growth during the next three years.”

For more information on DSA’s 2019 Growth & Outlook Survey: 2018 Direct Selling Data in the United States, you can also read more on this topic at The DSA has also added a new interactive component when you hover the arrow or cursor over various content on the page.


Editor note:

On June 13 we received from the DSA this statement:

“While we appreciate you for including the latest Direct Selling Association (DSA) Growth & Outlook data on your site, I am writing to request a correction to your recent post titled, “The USA Lost 8 Million Distributors in 2018.”


It is not accurate for you to state that the U.S. has 8 million fewer direct sellers as reported from 2017 to 2018.

According to DSA research and data, it is most accurate to state the 2018 Growth & Outlook survey results show that 6.2 million people are part-time and full-time business builders, and there are 36.6 million customers actively involved in direct selling today.


The way the DSA collects its data has evolved since 2017, primarily due to the increase in companies distinguishing those involved in the business. We’ve begun to characterize the people involved in direct selling according to their sales and purchase habits, so in terms of tracking the overall number of people involved in the channel from 2017 to 2018, it would not be a true “apples to apples” comparison.  


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Comments (12)

  1. With the launch of my new company 6Star LLC and Justice for my Jewel my business partner and I realized approximately 7 years ago in order to survive this industry you’re going to need external users ie customers

  2. If you read this carefully and dismiss the detrimental Headline you’ll discover this is a Good Thing. The diminishing number of Distributors is partially due to the fact that Customers are now being counted as Customers and NOT Distributors and this is a very healthy change for our entire Industry. Also Sales are UP and more people buying from our business model…exciting times!!!

  3. The direct sale industry in very best for all men and women. Indian direct sales companies are going a high level. This is the best platform all of you

  4. Notice that 75% of our business leaders are women. The executive team and ownership of almost every company is dominated by men. I’m interested in woman owned and led companies and Benefit Corporations that are in this space. eRevolution is needed here in my view!

  5. Whether the title “The USA Lost 8 Million MLM Distributors in 2018” is 100% correct or not and regardless of the comments made by the DSA with regards to the title, it’s clear that the traditional MLM business model is under pressure. And, it’s not surprising.

    Distributors are tired of being taken advantage of. They normally have to sign up under another distributor, are often pressurized to make more sales, buy more inventory and have to waste time recruiting others. New distributors often feel that only those higher up in the pecking order with large downlines are the ones making decent money. And, they are right.

    At LUNVA we believe the traditional MLM model is an outdated dinosaur. You just have a look at a site like Reddit to see the picture where the sub-reddit “MLM” has 5.4k members and the sub-reddit “antiMLM” has 509k members.

    We believe that our model ( is the model for the future where distributors are treated fairly and with respect as independent business owners where your success does not depend on how long you have been with the company or how many people are in your downline but only on the time and effort you invest in your business.

    Casper du Toit
    Founder of LUNVA LLC

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