Celebrating more than 40 years in business, Mary Kay is in the pink as one of the top direct sellers of beauty products in the US. It offers more than 200 products in six categories: body care, color cosmetics, facial skin care, fragrance, nail care, and sun protection. Some 2.5 million independent sales consultants demonstrate Mary Kay products in the US and about 35 other countries; the company also sells products through its website. Consultants vie for awards each year that range from jewelry to its trademark pink Cadillac (first awarded in 1969). The Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation funds cancer research and domestic violence programs. The family of founder Mary Kay Ash owns most of the company.
Founded by a woman for women, Mary Kay has an overwhelmingly female independent sales force. The company has seen its sales force grow by double digits during the past couple years, despite the recession, thanks to a fast-growing group of younger (age 24 to 35) representatives. Indeed, the average age of a Mary Kay consultant -- now 36 years old -- has been dropping. The company hopes that younger salespeople will attract younger customers and lure them away from competitors the likes of Sephora. In recent years, Mary Kay has amassed more than 600 Independent National Sales Directors. The top sales director in this elite group in 2010 had earned some $1 million a year for three consecutive years. Although the company stands by Mary Kay's original goal of providing financial and career opportunities for women, much of the company's executive population is male. To cater to men, the beauty company has rolled out a men's line called MKMen, which includes shave foam, moisturizer sunscreen, face bar, body spray, and cooling after-shave gel.
Mary Kay works hard to retain the feel of a small company, despite its more than 2-million-strong independent sales force and the company's growing international reach. As part of this initiative, each beauty consultant receives the option to buy his or her own website to use for selling to clients. More than 90% of its revenue is generated through online orders by the company's independent sales force. In recent years, Mary Kay began rolling out e-commerce capacity on its websites. The company has said that it doesn't see selling products from its MaryKay.com website as a threat to cannibalize sales from independent representatives, citing that most of its customers buy Mary Kay products as part of a relationship with their consultant.
The beauty company's headquarters is located in Addison, Texas, north of Dallas. It tests, manufactures, and packages most of its own products in facilities in Dallas, China, and India.
Like rival Avon, Mary Kay is extending its reach into China as it chases after the huge potential upside to selling in the nation. It also establishing a third-party manufacturing facility in India (in Baddi and Uttaranchal) to develop products specifically for the Indian market. Product launches have included a bath bar, Mary Kay Lotus and Bamboo Indulgent. Mary Kay plans to invest some $20 million in India to tap the local market and diversify its business. The direct seller anticipates expanding its existing categories in India -- skincare, fragrances, and color cosmetics -- and supporting its about 4,000 independent sales representatives in the country by opening several additional regional warehouses and local offices. Where Mary Kay is also seeing growth -- at a rate of more than 12% each year beginning in 2008 -- is in Australia, where the direct seller employs 10,000 part-time consultants.
The family of founder Mary Kay Ash owns most of the company.
During her lifetime Mary Kay Ash was known for her religious nature as well as her generosity. She founded the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation in 1996; by 2006 the foundation had awarded $8 million in grants to cancer researchers and US women's shelters. Mary Kay Ash suffered a debilitating stroke in 1996 and died on Thanksgiving Day 2001.