The past two decades have witnessed little, if any, growth in the numbers of small firms with employees in the UK. At the same time, a substantial growth in the numbers of self-employed without employees as a component of the UK national labour force has been witnessed. The current article reports on a recent study into direct selling that accounts for around 500,000 “independent contractors” at any one time, albeit, in this case, operating often as part of an invisible economy, though linked with household-name direct selling companies. With the advent of more large companies, such as the recently privatised utilities, using direct selling as a distribution format, there is a strong case for achieving a wider understanding of the dynamics of this system.

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