By Claire West

New figures released today by the Direct Selling Association (DSA) reveal a boom in the number of young people in direct selling with the average number of under-25 year olds at member companies in 2012 increasing by nearly a third (29%) compared to 2011. Of the 400,000 direct sellers in the UK, over 75,000 are now under 25.

The Direct Selling Association (DSA), the trade body that represents direct selling companies including Avon, Herbalife and The Pampered Chef surveyed its 60 member companies, and discovered that young people are increasingly attracted to direct selling. Under-25s year now make 19% of the direct sales force, with 30% of direct sellers in the UK educated to degree level.

With an increasingly difficult jobs market, younger people are turning to direct selling as an alternative way to generate income. With data suggesting that there are up to 56 applications per graduate vacancy, and youth unemployment remaining static at around 20%, direct selling - where individuals work for themselves and sell goods to consumers outside a fixed retail location - is appealing to more young people.

Direct selling allows anyone, regardless of age, background or prior experience to set up and run their own business. It is a flexible option with minimal outlay allowing people to work the hours they choose with no dependency on the traditional jobs market. Young people are increasingly looking to be their own boss, with research by The Prince’s Trust suggesting over a quarter of young people want to run their own business.

Lynda Mills, Director of the Direct Selling Association said: “For many young people, the jobs market is incredibly difficult to break into and there is a real desire to work for themselves and get up and running quickly. Direct selling offers just that and a chance for people, whatever their age to be their own boss and make a very successful career.”

Zoe Stuart, 22, from Newcastle, has been a direct seller with Forever Living Products for 18 months. She began as a student at the end of her second year and has used the income as a way of helping her pay her way through higher education. Since then it has become her main income, and she has used skills she learned to transform her education experience, and is now working with other young people to help them get involved in the industry.

She said: "Direct selling completely changed my mindset about what I can achieve and transformed my sense of self belief. Since I began direct selling my grades improved at university - I started getting firsts in everything I did. Now I am doing something I love - helping people and watching them blossom.”

Lynda Mills continues: “Direct selling is thriving as an industry with strong sales throughout recent years. As times have become tough the industry has emerged as an alternative way of earning for an increasing number of people. While the industry still appeals to core demographics, for younger people it offers an alternative way for them to work with flexibility and freedom.”

“The increase in tuition fees and failure of the traditional jobs market have frequently led young people to consider direct selling, and many are now making a real success from the industry. Direct selling helps young people gain work experience through running their own micro businesses and learn entrepreneurial skills, which can be invaluable in later life. Under 25s are the new generation in direct selling, and are bringing with them new tools and technologies like smartphones and social media.”

Emma Sangster, 27, from Glasgow is typical of the new breed of direct seller. A direct seller for Arbonne, Emma was recently named as the DSA’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year. After graduating Emma launched her Arbonne business as a hobby aged 22, but after significant success turned it into her full time source of income, growing her business by over 100% in 2012.

“I first got involved with direct selling at university — initially it was just a hobby to support me while I studied but it grew into a serious business and my full time career. I found that I was quickly able to build my business and work how and when I wanted to. I now enjoy working with other young people, helping them to become successful in direct selling too.”

Direct selling is the UK’s largest provider of part-time independent work. Data from the Direct Selling Association also shows that revenue generated by its member companies have grown 7% from £1.4billion to £1.5billion in the last year.