Northern Ireland agents lament Stella and Dot European withdrawal
A local Stella and Dot boss has said a decision by the San Francisco jewellery firm to pull out of the UK and Europe came as a shock to its 20-strong team here.
The company, which also sells clothes and make-up, works through direct sales by targeting women to work as agents, who then hold "trunk parties" similar to Tupperware parties to sell goods.
It will cease trading in April.
Sinead Martin, who has worked for the company since it launched here in 2011, said: "We never saw it coming. Everyone found out at the same time so it was just a shock.
"Everyone expressed their sadness because it wasn't just a job, it was one of those places that brought people together and I have made great friendships from it."
Stella and Dot was founded by mother-of-two Jessica Herrin to create a "new kind of company that would offer today's busy woman a career alternative".
An email from the company's directors was forwarded to all sales reps yesterday, saying that currency fluctuations between the dollar, pound and euro had led to the "difficult decision" to withdraw.
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Ms Martin said: "For a really long time they threw everything at the business to keep it going for us... all stock is still available and we've been told to 'sell your heart out' as much as you can until April."
The mother-of-three, added: "It offered us realistic positivity with no targets and took us places we would never have gone to, including Dubai and Mauritius. We were treated so well. They had an ethos that was all about looking after their stylists and building them up." Ms Martin, who has already been contacted by similar network marketing firms, said the quality of the product had been high: "I never sold jewellery like Stella and Dot's.
"I do believe there will be more demand now it's going."
The group has around 4,000 stylists in Europe. The company estimates that they have earned over €11m (£9.9m) in commission since 2011.
It said that it offered women - and mothers in particular - flexible and low risk business opportunities that fitted their lifestyles.
Another former representative told the Belfast Telegraph the move was a sad loss for those self-employed mothers.
She said: "Network marketing is a great industry and it is a shame to hear of any of those firms coming and going because it's a loss of another flexible operation that gives women who were otherwise inactive confidence and gives them back their zest to life."