Blyth lights up the party with its wicked products. As the largest candle maker in the US, Blyth's PartyLite Worldwide subsidiary sells its scented and unscented candles, flameless products, and reed diffusers all under the PartyLite brand. Blyth's portfolio extends beyond the candle business with ViSalus nutritional supplements, as well as a variety of catalog and online businesses that market household goods and gifts under the Silver Star Brands umbrella. Blyth's products are sold through home parties, online, and by retailers worldwide. The company also supplies institutional customers, such as restaurants and hotels. In 2015 Blyth agreed to be acquired by The Carlyle Group for $98 million.
Blyth operates three business segments: Candles and Home Decor (PartyLite); Health and Wellness (ViSalus); and Catalog and Internet (Silver Star Brands). These segments contributed approximately 44%, 40%, and 16% of sales in 2013. In the US, PartyLite brand products are sold by a cadre of about 17,000 independent consultants (down from more than 19,000 in 2012) who market products through home-based parties and on their own websites. In Europe, PartyLite merchandise is sold by more than 30,000 independent consultants.
ViSalus, Blyth's health and wellness business, sells weight management products, nutritional supplements, foods and energy drink mixes, also by independent sales representatives. Silver Star Brands' is another direct to consumer business that offers decorative and functional household products including cards, gifts, food, and health and wellness products. Brands include Miles Kimball (hard-to-find gadgets and personalized gifts), Walter Drake (kitchenware, organizers, and more), As We Change (merchandise target at women over 40), Easy Comforts (health and personal care), and Exposures (photo albums, holiday decor, gifts).
The US is Connecticut-based Blyth's largest market, accounting for nearly 60% of sales. Other markets include Australia, Canada, about a dozen countries in Europe (including Germany, France, and the UK), and Mexico. The company has a sourcing office for PartyLite in Hong Kong.
Blyth reported sales of $885.5 million in 2013, a decline of 25% versus 2012. The double-digit sales dip was due to lower sales by the company's health and wellness segment and, to a much lesser extent, a decrease in candles and home decor sales, partially offset by a 3% sales gain by the catalog and Internet unit. PartyLite's sales dipped 6% year over year primarily due to a 17% decline in sales in North America as the direct marketer's team of active independent sales consultants shrank from 19,000 in 2012 to 17,000 in 2013. PartyLite's sales in Europe also declined by 2% (in US dollars) year over year, while its sales in Australia increased 17% (in US dollars) on growing consultant counts.
Net income fell 94% to $2.4 million over the same period. The steep decline in profitability was primarily due to ViSalus's decreased operating performance, partially offset by improved operating results at Silver Star Brands.
The company is aiming to boost its business through an expanded selection of products. To that end, Blyth has been increasing its stake in vitamin and nutritional supplement merchant ViSalus Holdings through several purchases and currently owns about 81% of the shares. ViSalus extends Blyth's marketing reach into dietary supplements, weight management products, and energy drinks. Blyth also aims to ignite sales in the years ahead by offering monthly sales and productivity incentives to its independent sales representatives and distributors.
To build up cash reserves and streamline its operations, Blyth has been purging some of its non-core businesses. In late 2012 the company sold its Sterno butane products and lighting business to Westar Capital portfolio company Candle Lamp Company, purging the Sterno, Handy Fuel, QuickFlame, and Sterno Decorative Lighting Collection brands. The move completes Blyth's shift from a multi-channel marketing company to a direct-to-consumer marketer. The company parted ways with gourmet coffee and tea seller Boca Java in 2011. Boca Java had been facing decreased consumer demand -- its sales fell by nearly 35% in fiscal 2011. As part of the disposal, Blyth recorded a $1 million impairment charge. Also in 2011 Blyth sold the assets of its Midwest-CBK premium seasonal and home decor business to MVP Group, a maker of private label candles and home fragrance items, for $35 million (consisting of $23 million in cash and a $12 million promissory note).