William W. Keep, Dean and Professor of Marketing, The College of New Jersey has put together a useful paper in fighting the nonsense that MLM is a great business model.
Here are some highlights.
From 1974 to 2012, the U.S. direct selling industry grew at an annual rate of 1.45% while US GDP grew twice as fast, at an annual rate of 2.84%. The GDP grew approximately three-fold while the direct selling industry increased by approximately 1.7 times. As the number of people engaged in direct selling tripled from 1991 to 2011, direct sales as a percent of total retail sales at first increased and then declined.
A comparison over time of average annual distributor earnings showed that the average Amway distributors in Wisconsin in 1980 earned $744 in 2012 dollars ($267 in 1980), while the average annual earning for all Herbalife and Nu Skin distributors in 2012 were $749 and $641, respectively (State of Wisconsin v. Amway 1982; Herbalife, 2013a; Nu Skin, 2013); thus little or no change.