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May 8, 2010 3:00 am
In a kitchen in the suburbs of south-west London, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is on the TV and a woman is squealing with delight about a vegetable peeler. She's not alone - 20 of her friends are huddled around the screen, nibbling olives and being goaded into buying new kitchenware.
Jamie Oliver and his team of 2,500 consultants have been selling branded products in kitchens around Britain for almost a year. Even though he has his own shop and sells through other retailers, he has decided to focus on face-to-face selling.
After they've been treated to a recipe from Jamie, Marisa Pugh, a consultant since September and mother of two, steps up to show the party-goers how the utensils work. She displays a carving board and explains that if you turn it upside down it can be used as a lazy Susan. Ms Pugh likes to tell personal stories about the products so people can imagine how they'd use them.
As her friends spend, the hostess, Nina Divall, earns points to spend on products.
She said: "The products are useful and attractive but different - I didn't feel guilty asking people to come and spend money on them."
She added: "I've been into the shop - and it's not the same as the home environment. In the shop it's all spread out and you forget about it - here it's right in front of you - I didn't buy anything then but I buy lots here."
The women, mainly stay-at-home mums retired from working in the City, not only trust each other's recommendations, but also love Jamie - so much so that they say if he ever cheated on his wife, they'd never buy from him again.
Kim Claxton, managing director of Jamie at Home, said: "It's the opportunity to have face-to-face, skin-to-skin contact with real people. For Jamie himself it was really important - and although it's a little kitsch to have a DVD beaming Jamie into the home, it works well."
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