Future proofing your business by adapting to market changes

By Susannah Schofield OBE, Director General, the Direct Selling Association

In the dynamic world of retail, standing still is not an option. To thrive, businesses must be agile, forward-thinking, and constantly adapt to change. This principle is one of the guiding premises at the heart of our decision to transform one of the UK’s leading retail trade bodies… 

Earlier this year, the Direct Selling Association, one of the UK’s leading retail bodies and the industry body for direct-to-consumer (D2C) retail, took a significant step to future proof the organisation. The move, which has seen the Association expand its membership to the full range of D2C brands, offers key lessons in adapting to market change, and leading the charge in an ever-evolving sector.

The D2C channel of retail – whereby a brand or manufacturer sells its own products to its end customers – has been one of the key success factors behind some of the most innovative and fast-growth brands of the last few years. Disruptor brands such as Freddy’s Flowers, Skin+Me, Lick, and Beauty Pie to name just a few. And whilst some might think of their approaches as a recent innovation, the origins of D2C actually go back a long way, with the Direct Selling Association having been established in 1965.

Historically, the Direct Selling Association has always championed innovation in retail, with D2C pioneers such as Tupperware and Avon setting the stage for many modern D2C models. Today, as the retail landscape continues to evolve and consumer demands and habits change, the Association is uniquely positioned to guide and support a more diverse array of businesses looking to navigate and thrive in the D2C channel.

The principle of agility and adapting to change, does of course, extend to all industries, and whilst these changes can evoke nervousness and apprehension, they can also offer a crucial opportunity, particularly among SMEs, to disrupt the status quo and scaleup growth. Companies that adapt to these trends tend not only to survive, but thrive.

It was for these reasons that the Association made the proactive decision to evolve, and to now open its membership to the broader and growing list of D2C brands now operating in the UK in addition to its existing membership base.

According to reports,  75% of the consumers are aware of at least one D2C brand in the UK and almost two thirds (64%) have purchased a product from one or more of these brands. This widespread consumer awareness and engagement with D2C brands highlights the growing influence and effectiveness of the D2C model.

The Association’s rebrand signals a significant shift, allowing us to better serve a broader range of D2C retailers and to support brands to respond to the rapid changes we are observing in consumer behaviour and market dynamics. The traditional boundaries of direct selling are blurring: Consumers are increasingly seeking out direct, authentic engagement with brands, personalised experiences, and seamless digital interactions.

By welcoming a wider variety of D2C businesses into the Association’s fold, it is fostering an environment where innovation flourishes and best practices are shared, a collaborative approach ideal for navigating the complexities of modern retail.

Moreover, the Direct Selling Association’s commitment to rigorous standards remains at its core. Membership requires a thorough and detailed audit process, ensuring that member brands adhere to the highest levels of business integrity and operational excellence. This dedication to quality sets our members apart and builds trust.

The rebranding also aligns with our broader campaign work to promote and encourage best practice. As the D2C model grows, so does the need for robust frameworks that protect both consumers and businesses. Arguably, advocating for these standards and emphasising their importance in the current, rapidly expanding D2C market, has never been so important.

The future of D2C retail in 2024, despite challenges, is bright, and the Direct Selling Association’s ability to move with the times, reaffirms its commitment to be a leading stakeholder in this future – driving innovation in the space, leading best practice, empowering entrepreneurial spirit and guiding its members to ensure they are well-equipped to meet the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow’s retail landscape as well as today’s.

Adapting to market change is not just about survival—it’s about seizing opportunities and leading with vision. All SMEs should remind themselves of that when change presents itself.