TUPPERWARE MAY be on the wane but its legacy lives on… Step forward Pupperware. At least, that’s what seems to be happening in New York – where else? Writing in his regular column ‘Wall Street Life’ in The Times, David Litterick explains how the concept of direct party selling, so redolent of a past generation, has reinvented itself and found a new niche in this most discerning of cities…
Litterick writes: "Today, anyone walking in New York's many parks or squares should not be surprised to find groups of partygoers wearing hats, comparing products and handing over wads of cash to organisers. Many of them will also be carrying plastic bags and leather restrainers, but don't get the wrong idea. This is no sordid S&M gathering.
"Welcome to Pupperware. After plastic containers and beauty products, this is the next realm ripe for conquering by the might of the direct salesman"
Litterick explains that the company Shure Pets is among the best of breed in this new phenomenon. "Whelped in Chicago two years ago, it rang up revenues of $300,000 last year and hopes to top the million mark in 2005…
"It is now straining at the leash in New York, where well-heeled and sophisticated Gothamites are proving surprisingly fertile ground. Perhaps it's not all that bizarre. This is a city, remember, where a dog fashion show is just another event on the calendar and holding a dog shower to mark the arrival of a new pet is not considered the remotest bit weird."
Among the most popular canine accessories are scented shampoos and paw balm, ideal for the winter when the salted pavements bother a dog's feet - when they aren't wearing shoes. There are also odour control sprays – just the thing for these hot summer ‘dog days’.
Founder Andy Shure says he's always been interested in the direct selling model. ‘People are more likely to buy from someone they know and trust rather than a salesman who may not even care about pets,’ he says and, as a dog owner himself, he knew how obsessive people can be about their animals.
‘This time last year we had 100 party co-ordinators. Now we have 800 across the country,’ he says. ‘This is a market that has doubled over the past 10 years and is likely to keep growing.’
Now America is up and running, what next? ‘We are looking at other English-speaking countries which have a known love of animals,’ he says.
"Wherever could he mean?" muses Litterick, before concluding: "The company focuses on dogs but offers products for a variety of species, from the usual cats and rabbits to the rather more bizarre ferrets. ‘We have ferret lovers in the US. That's all I can really say,’ he adds, rather enigmatically. If nothing else it suggests that if the company goes to the dogs in the Big Apple, it always has a future in Yorkshire."