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Even Tupperware going online

Hot on the Web

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on December 13, 2002
(Issue 2050, Making Money in Cyberspace)

For those of us who grew up in the 1960s and '70s, Tupperware parties were a familiar if bizarre part of the cultural landscape. If you weren't a woman, you weren't invited — which made these Tupperware parties seem kind of mysterious to us kids. It was all sort of like the Masons, only devoted to plasticware.

For the kids, a Tupperware party was a great deal — our dads stayed home with us that evening, which meant pizza or hamburgers for dinner.

And a few weeks later, all these new snap-lid canisters, bowls and cups would arrive.

A different business model

Tupperware was one of those handful of companies that sold its products outside the normal retail distribution chain even before the World Wide Web came along. Along with Avon and Mary Kay Cosmetics, Tupperware was sold by setting up a network of individuals who sold the products to their neighbors and associates.

It's been a fairly successful system, as Tupperware has survived for more than half a century.

But you don't survive that long if you're not adaptable — and so while you still won't find Tupperware products at the local department store (although there are now Tupperware showcases at some malls), you will find them online. now features a regular online store. No more waiting for the neighbors to host a Tupperware party (although even uncivilized bachelors such as myself can get invited these days) — you can simply go the site and purchase what you want right now.

True to their roots

But you can also host a Tupperware party online — and, yes, you still earn free prizes for any sales you generate.

And the site also lets you sign up to host a regular Tupperware party — you just type in your name and address, and then the local Tupperware sales rep will contact you.

Others adapting, too

As mentioned, Mary Kay Cosmetics also distributed its products outside the retail system. And is just as slick a site as Tupperware's.

Interestingly, does not offers its products for sale. Instead, you can search for a MaryKay consultant's web site — where you can buy their products.

Apparently, the suits at MaryKay have decided that selling direct would undercut their independent sales force, and have set up the MaryKay Web site as a way of helping their existing distributors.

It's well-designed and intuitive — and is simply another approach for using the Web to enhance current sales methods. has taken the Tupperware route. While the Avon lady may still visit your neighborhood selling their line of cosmetics and beauty products, also offers their own online store.

Somewhat oddly, there is no clear way to find an Avon representative on the Web site. The only way I found was by going through the FAQs.

Unlike Mary Kay, Avon seems to believe that it can best succeed by selling direct — even if this does put the company in the position of competing against its own sales force.

Tupperware, Mary Kay and Avon all still sell their products through their time-honored personal networking systems — but all three now include solid, polished Web sites as part of their business models.

The 'Net is becoming a necessity for even the most old school of companies.