The number of people working in direct selling has risen by 22 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2010, according to the Direct Selling Association (DSA).

According to DSA figures, women account for around 90 per cent of all direct sellers.

Richard Berry, director of the DSA, said direct selling was dominated by women because products sold through direct sales were generally in areas like cosmetics, clothes and jewellery.

The DSA has also released annual UK figures for 2009 which demonstrate that the industry, as a whole, attracted more than 325,000 new direct sellers - up 17 per cent compared to 2008. Of these, over 290,000 were women.

However, Berry added that turnover in the industry typically varied between 80 and 90 per cent, as it was cheap and easy to become a direct seller and that many people used it as a temporary means of income while looking for alternative employment.

Berry said: “Direct selling offers a much needed financial opportunity for many people during a recession whether it’s to supplement an existing income or a full-time career option.”

“We have seen the industry perform well in most economic dips we have traded through in the DSA’s 45-year history.”

Recent research by Mintel showed that spending on clothes and beauty treatments was holding up well despite the economic slowdown.

Berry added that there was anecdotal evidence increasing numbers of graduates were turning to direct selling to supplement income as they searched for full-time jobs.

“It’s not their career choice but it does give them an introduction to the world of commerce and shows potential employers they’re prepared to work hard,” he said.