THEY began in the 1950s, transforming the world's housewives into kitchen-table moguls. Now the 'Tupperware party' phenomenon looks set for a renaissance as businesses look to different ways to sell during this new coronavirus era.



Invented by American businessman Earl Tupper in the 1940s, the airtight plastic containers for food storage were not an instant hit with housewives who were unaccustomed to handling plastic, considered it rather unaesthetic and were unfamiliar with using the patented ‘burping’ seal to force out the air.


But one woman turned it around?

Brownie Wise, who had been a sales rep for a homeware company, was a divorced single mother looking for a new way to work. She liked Tupperware herself and began selling it at home parties, becoming the founder of 'party plan marketing', where products are sold via what is presented as a social event, but where the seller also encourages guests to consider hosting their own selling parties.


Tupperware cottoned on?

As she began to outsell stores, Tupper brought her on board to be the vice president of Tupperware Home Parties in 1951 and the parties spread globally into a multi-million dollar success story, with thousands of women eager to work at a time when their role was conventionally considered to be at home.


The UK?

The Tupperware party phenomenon reached the UK in 1960 when the first event was held by a housewife in Weybridge. Popular initial products included the 'Dip 'N' Serve' serving tray, the portable cake carrier the 'Pie Taker' and the 'Party Bowl’.



The range became so popular, Tupperware developed a variety of different products in different coloured plastic to meet the collecting mania and vintage Tupperware still trades on selling sites.



In 2003, Tupperware shut its operations in the UK and Ireland, saying the direct sales model was not working in these markets. It makes around $2 billion annually, with around 75% of that coming from outside of North America, but questions were asked in the States earlier this year over the company’s business model amid concerns people no longer “have time to gather”.


Now, though?

Lockdown has offered plenty of time and sparked a need for a new approach to many areas of life. With stock-piling leaving shelves bare and a reluctance by many to even go to stores, retail experts see potential in ‘social selling’. Couple this with the surge in nostalgia; demand from shoppers for more personalised shopping experiences and a rise in the number of people looking for flexible earning, party retailing is seen as one key way forward by experts.


It’s not just Tupperware?

The ‘party’ business model has been in use through the years by firms such as Avon, Fake Bake, Ann Summers and The Body Shop at Home.


And until the virus is over?

Perhaps even in the post-virus era too, social media selling and apps such as Zoom and Houseparty are also being pointed to as ways to have hi-tech sales events.


Tupperware parties are the future?

The Direct Selling Association (DSA) believe it looks that way, saying that now “like never before….retailers must look beyond the norm to survive and thrive…and direct selling is a channel that offers huge potential.”