18 June 2013

First U.S. store shows new direction of Amway

Story Originally Appeared in Detroit Free Press

After becoming a global powerhouse in 100 countries and territories with fewer untapped countries left, it isn’t surprising Amway is doubling down on the place it all began — the U.S. market.

That includes opening its first U.S. store at the New York Mets’ Citi Field several weeks ago. Amway has stores in China and other places but didn’t think it needed any here until now.

“Around the world we have used physical locations to support Amway’s business and let people go there to better understand what we do,” said Doug DeVos, president of the company.

Amway was aided by independent business owners (IBOs) who sell its vitamins, health and beauty, household and other products.

“What you are seeing in New York is the start of our doing more in the U.S,” he said. “We will keep developing that idea with a number of locations and decide what is the best way to go.”

The direct selling behemoth — started 54 years ago by pals Rich DeVos and the late Jay Van Andel from their west Michigan homes as they sold health supplements — is now run by their sons. The privately held company is owned by the two families.

Amway, with sales of $11.2 bilion in 2012 and 21,000 employees (4,000 in west Michigan) is run by DeVos — youngest son of co-founder Rich DeVos, and Steve Van Andel, eldest son of Jay Van Andel, who serves as chairman.

Doug DeVos seems to have followed his father in assuming the more outgoing role at the company.

Doug DeVos will be among speakers at this week’s Detroit Regional Chamber Policy Conference at Mackinac Island, where he’ll talk about the state’s future.

When it comes to Amway’s past and future, combining sports and health products has proven a winning formula. Rich DeVos and family own the NBA’s Orlando Magic.

When asked about Detroit — where Amway signed on as presenting sponsor of the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings — and whether the Motor City could be next in line for an Amway store, DeVos said: “Who knows where it (the relationship with the team) goes? We have a great relationship with a great family (the Ilitches, who own the Red Wings and Detroit Tigers).”

Amway’s New York City store is intended to be a meeting space for Amway's IBOs but tons of product like Nutrilite and Artistry are on hand. The store is small compared to ones in China, where thousands congregate.

China put Amway on the map and remains its largest market, representing about a third of its sales.

DeVos just penned an article in Harvard Business Review’s “How I Did It” feature in which CEOs talk about how they confronted an issue. He wrote how Amway adapted its business model because of government changes.

“Being forced to change our model in China helped us realize that we need to regularly adapt to succeed in different markets,” DeVos wrote. “By the time the Chinese government lifted its direct-selling ban in 2005, Amway had equipped itself with new strategies for global growth and emerged as China’s market leader.”

Amway’s footprint in China is hard to miss.

Zhao Weiping, China's new consul general to the Midwest, who was in Lansing on Tuesday to meet with Gov. Rick Snyder, took time out to talk about Amway.

“Amway has been very successful in China and making great profits,” he said.

Inspiring the entrepreneurial spirit is another mission to DeVos.

“Entrepreneurship is the backbone of a thriving economy,” he said. “Supporting the spirit of entrepreneurship and ensuring that we have the right environment for business is very important.”

Keeping up with the company’s talent needs has also been a challenge. Amway isn’t alone in that, which is why DeVos and other CEOs got together in a rather unique program to bring in more young people.

Come back next week to find out more about the effort.

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