By Polly Keary, Editor
Home decor and kitchenware, as any shopper knows, can leave your wish list a lot bigger than your wallet.
But a new revival of an old tradition is helping lots of people afford things that otherwise might be a bit beyond the budget.
Hosting a shopping party can be a fun way to get friends together for a night of snacking and catching up, all while checking out the latest products in lines such as Tupperware, Pampered Chef cookware, Partylite candles and more.
The parties are a collaboration between a representative of one of those companies and a person who wants a chance to buy some of his or her products at a discount—or even earn some free.
The host invites friends over to view the wares of the representative, who takes orders at the event. The host usually gets a discount on merchandise based on the amount sold, and often a number of other promotional gifts.
The first thing to come to mind when thinking of shopping parties is Tupperware, which started having parties in the 1950s. At the time the parties were more than a way to get a bargain on household goods; they was a way to help women pushed out of the workforce by returning soldiers to continue to earn money.
Parties remain a key marketing tool for Tupperware, and you can still get great deals by hosting one.
A party doesn’t even have to be very big to earn the host some bargains, said Davi Martin of Gold Bar, who has been selling Tupperware for about seven years.
“You hope for about 10 people at a party,” she said.
In fact, if all you do is round up 10 people and each one orders, Martin gives you a “Tower of Tupper” worth more than $50.
You also get discounts on Tupperware that grow depending on how much product is ordered at your party. If your friends spring for $270 worth of goods, you get to order $27 worth of free stuff, plus you can pick whatever one item you want at half off. If everyone’s orders add up to $450, you get 15 percent of the sales total in credit toward an order of your own, plus you get two items at half off.
And Martin likes to throw a little something extra in with each order.
“There’s little things like citrus peelers that I give for coming to the party,” she said.
A price break on Tupperware doesn’t hurt; it’s never been inexpensive, and some of the bigger ticket items, like the Chef Series 6-quart Dutch Oven that lists at $289 and the Chef Series pan set will set you back $1,574, make a half-off deal attractive, indeed.
The party works out well for your guests, too.
When buying things you can’t get in stores, a party offers a way to try before you buy. Martin often demos products at parties, using a chopper to make salsa or a special microwave dish to make a cake on the spot, which, of course, everyone gets to eat.
When buying something scented, shopping by catalog is even harder, which is why Partylite shoppers can benefit from purchasing at parties.
Partylite is another of the direct-sales giants, and the relatively affordable candles, lamps, home-scent products and even lotions and bath products can all be tried before purchase at a party.
The parties can be a lot of fun, said Deby Whalen of Monroe, who has been selling Partylite for about 10 years.
“Our newest thing is decorate-it-yourself parties,” she said. “I bring all the stuff like Valentine’s Day things, red and white and pink, potpourri, rock and shells, stuff like that, and at the party we take the guests and divide them into two teams and set up displays. The hostess decides who has the best display and there’s prizes.”
For a sweetheart deal, hostesses can actually earn double credits through Feb. 15, she noted. That’s a big reward; if her friends buy $600 worth of stuff, she gets $300 in free product.
“So when people have a wish list that they can’t afford to get everything they want, I suggest they have a party, get it for free,” she said.
The cost of having a party isn’t high, the two representatives said. Typically the hostess prepares snacks for anywhere for four to a dozen or so friends, and maybe springs for a few bottles of wine.
And both women agreed that the best parties are when no one feels pressured to buy anything.
“I like a party that is easygoing, where everyone has fun, everyone is visiting and having a good time,” said Whalen. “It could be 15 people, could be five or six. It doesn’t matter as long as everyone has a good time. And you can help your hostess get her wish list.”
So if there are things on your wish list that are a bit out of reach at the moment, or if you just like a good deal and a gathering of friends, look online to see if anyone in the area is selling the products that interest you, be it knives, makeup from Avon or Mary Kay, jewelry from Cookie Lee or Stella and Dot (there’s a representative in Gold Bar), kitchen gadgets or decorator objects, and then call to see if you can plan a party.