Could Mary Kay Survive in a Real Retail Environment?

As we all know, the market for Mary Kay with actual retail customers is pretty small. Mary Kay depends on inventory orders from consultants and directors. Corporate has little regard for whether the products are actually sold to bona fide customers. Mary Kay’s customer is the consultant and they’re happy when products go from the warehouse to the consultant.

Quite simply, Mary Kay relies on the recruitment of new consultants for its survival. The products are really secondary, and are merely the vehicle used to lure in new consultants.

What if Mary Kay decided that “real retail” was the way to go? What if the executives finally admitted that the billions of dollars pried out of the hands of consultants are no longer worth it? What if they admitted that damage is done to millions of women each year with this scheme? What if they decided to get away from the multi-level marketing scheme and made Mary Kay a real retail business?

Last week I polled members on the issue of whether Mary Kay could make it as a real retail makeup sales company. Here are the results:

I was surprised at how evenly the vote was divided.  I would love to hear everyone’s thinking behind their answers. Why or why not do you think Mary Kay could be successful at real retailing?

Personally, I think Mary Kay would have to be sold in Target or Wal-Mart to be successful, and the prices would have to be set accordingly. The Mary Kay products simply aren’t of a quality that they could be sold in a store like Sephora. They could be sold in Ulta, but would have to go in the discount make-up section, in my opinion.

Give us your opinion!


  1. Jamie

    I think Target it about right. No one I have ever known who was truly serious about makeup quality (the type who routinely shop at Sephora, etc.) ever bought MK or was satisfied with the quality.

    I also think that the product focus would shift significantly if real retail were the goal. Things like the makeup remover, which is the only thing a lot of customers buy, would be a consistent seller. At least half of the specialty/ targeted skin care stuff (eye creams, etc) would never make it.

    1. Julie S.

      I also think Target or Ulta would be about right. I am one of those women who shops regularly at Sephora and takes my makeup and skincare very seriously. I am also another disappointed and resentful woman who feels humiliated and angry for allowing myself to get suckered into signing up for the MK pyramid scheme and buying an $1800 inventory package, most of which was never sold and will be returned to the company next week. There is so much more I could say but I digress…

      Regarding product quality, even after I started selling the products (or attempted to) and tried to follow the ‘rules’ by using it myself, I couldn’t stand most of it and went back to Sephora for most of my cosmetics which are truly of higher quality. And I never stopped using my regular skincare line Paula’s Choice throughout the whole 4 month fiasco. Once I lost my discount this month, after the handful of customers I had from my debut party bought what they needed and the sales dried up, that was it for me. Another thing I recommend people do if they are curious is to look up products on – this is where I always checked out any brand or product I was thinking about buying, and I saw some things that actually made me steer customers away from certain MK products because I was afraid they would have a reaction to it (Botanical Effects in particular), not to mention a lot of unsubstantiated claims and potential irritating, if not ineffective, ingredients in these overpriced items. Before I decided to quit altogether, I had started selling at 25% off to all my customers simply because I didn’t think any of it was worth the “retail” price – I certainly wouldn’t pay those prices for it. Anyway, that is my $.02 and I feel extremely liberated to finally be getting out of this ridiculous club so I can be free of the guilt and pressure to harass my friends and keep ordering out of my own pocket.

      This is my first post here, and I thank you for getting the word out. When I was still active I avoided this site so I could make up my own mind about the company, and sadly you were right about everything. At least I didn’t waste years trying to “overcome my fear” and keep up my Director’s salary by trying to remain a “star.” Whew… that felt good. 🙂

  2. Janet

    If Mary Kay were retail I could see her at Ulta or maybe Sephora. I have read the ingredients and compared it to Sephora brand and with the edition of her advanced skin care system of Timewise Repair she has placed herself “on-target” ingredient wise with the best of them. I have compared her ingredients with the leading skin care brands and Mary Kay is holding her own. I have to give credit where credit is due. If her products were so horrible we would all be running to our dermatologists. Sadly everything you have stated on Pink truth when it comes to the MLM aspect of Mary Kay is “right-on-target” TRUE. “Stinking Picking” true!!!!

    1. Kinzie

      RARELY, and I mean RARELY, do magazines cite MK products in their articles on fashion and beauty. I don’t mean advertisements, either. Quite often you will see that they used MAC, Cover Girl, Lancome, Chanel, Revlon etc. Brands from a broad spectrum of price ranges. And as I have said before: when I cleaned houses I saw what the women used for facial care and make up and I never saw one who used Mary Kay. And these were women who could afford pretty much whatever they wanted. I did see a lot of the black Sephora gift bags, though.

  3. cindylu

    There are very few products that MK has which would make it in an actual store. That is probably the reason MK and her husband chose this pushy sales scheme. The party style where non trained consultants parroted deceitful scripts to their potential targets was less costly. No real marketing, advertising, paying for retail space or selling at competitive price. Since the consultant gets stuck with failed Christmas or other collections, the CEO’s and the heirs get to profit on the backs of their mostly female sales force. MK would go bankrupt if they had to keep with other much better products out there.

    1. M

      My mom sells Mary Kay and periodically sends me products. I can’t use anything from Timewise because it irritates my skin so bad. I have excema with very dry skin. The only products I have been able to use are the Botanical Effects cleanser and moisturizer. The toner in ineffective and the mask/scrub gives me a rash. None of the other mousturizers are effective at all. I like the True Dimension lipstick. The eyeshadows are nothing special. There are a few products I might purchase if it were at Wal-Mart or Target. But I would not pay even the price listed on MK’s website. I don’t think this brand would do well in a retail environment.

  4. I can see some things like the lipsticks or eyeshadows selling at drugstores or big-box stores like Walmart, but not at Sephora. Ulta, maybe, but in the low-cost cosmetics section.

    This company could sell a few things in a retail environment, but it will be tough and likely send them into bankruptcy, given that better quality cosmetics could be found at better prices elsewhere

    1. MLM Radar

      I can see such things as Mary Kay lipsticks and eyeshadows being quickly dropped from the shelves at Wal-Mart, due to the high return rate because the merchandise is such low quality.

      Facial cleanser that burns. Lipstick colors that don’t last more than an hour. Eyeshadow pigment that requires multiple layers to cover.

      Wal-Mart deals in a lot of low-cost merchandise, but even they have some standards.

  5. Diane Vanderlaan

    MK products could be sold as previously mentioned at Walmart, Target, MAYBE Ulta. I can also see at national chains such as Walgreen’s or Rite-Aid. To be honest though, there are very few products that are unique enough to garner interest. Add to that the marketing/advertising promotions and ongoing product updates for color products run by Loreal, Revlon, and Maybelline, and I can’t see MK being able to stand against those powerhouses. Their products aren’t innovative enough and MK seems like a pink dinosaur to me. It certainly is NOT a prestige brand. Their skin care price point is higher to some of the Olay lines and those go on sale regularly. The Olay lines seem to be as effective as the MK products so why pay the big bucks for pink?

    It seems getting products off ebay is the best ‘store’ for selling MK products. God knows those poor bots can’t get rid of them any other way.

Comments are closed.