Pulse: How We Spend: Trends: House Party

The Avon Lady is back, and more welcome than ever

While retail sales may be as slouchy as this year’s harem pants, home shopping parties are hopping. Bad news for Jones Apparel. Good news for entrepreneurial women who’ve refashioned the Tupperware party concept, like Christen Goldstein, who’s hosting three parties a week as owner of Shop 2 Dye 4, a brick-and-mortar-less store that peddles clothing and toys for moms and kids, to moms and kids, in the comfort of their own homes.

“What a better way to shop,” says Goldstein, who lives in Lafayette Hill but travels up to two hours to host parties, showing up with about 12 containers of clothing so friends can socialize, try on and buy. An average party’s sales? She says $1,000. Longtime knitter and South Jersey resident Linda Ostroff started her “traveling yarn shop” last fall. She hauls along more than 100 yarn options to knitting parties (the ever-popular stitch-’n’-bitches), with prices ranging from $4 to $80.

The businesswomen get to make their own hours, which appeals to moms like Goldstein and Debby Hazard, from Collegeville. As a consultant for the beauty company Pink Papaya, Hazard organizes spa parties to sell skin-care and makeup lines, earning a couple hundred dollars at each — a nice little supplement to pay from a day job in corporate accounting. “I have three teenage daughters,” says Hazard. “I was attracted to the flexibility.”

But what’s in it for the customers? Besides free wine (a staple of most home parties), guests get goods that aren’t always available in stores and, because there’s so little overhead, better prices. Ostroff passes on manufacturer discounts to her customers, and Goldstein keeps tags below $50. Another upside in this crazy economy: the chance to shop comfortably. As self-described serial home shopper and Lafayette Hill resident Jamie Joffe puts it, “You’re with your friends, and you can spend whatever you want. When you walk into some smaller boutiques, there’s a ton of pressure to buy. But at a casual house party, I can spend or not spend. No one is judging.”

Don’t let the girls’-night-out rompiness fool you — these entrepreneurs mean serious business. Ostroff puts in more than 40 hours a week and sends out a weekly newsletter to customers. Goldstein holds kid focus groups to figure out the next hot styles. Shop 2 Dye 4 is six months old, but success has already forced Goldstein to turn her kids’ playroom into a warehouse. She’s even hired two consultants, and set her long-term goal: “I’d like to be the Mary Kay of kids’ clothing.”

Shop 2 Dye 4, shop2dye4.com; Pink Papaya, pinkpapayaparties.com/dhazard; Traveling Yarn Shop, travelingyarnshop.com.