Schedule unexpected bombshells of fun right to your door
Birchbox is often credited with igniting the subscription box trend.(Photo: Birchbox)
A mailbox full of bills, campaign fliers and real estate advertisements isn’t something you’d meet with smiles and glee. Fortunately, you can easily turn checking the mail into the best part of the day by giving yourself the gift of subscription boxes. Luxurious hair care, the latest young-adult books, toys and treats for your pet, or really anything that your heart desires — you have no idea what exactly is in the package. That grab-bag factor is at the heart of what has made subscription boxes one of the fastest-growing segments of retail.
“You’re basically unwrapping a gift to yourself. I think there’s a lot of pure enjoyment in that,” says Liz Cadman, founder of mysubscriptionaddiction.com, a website that tracks, reviews and offers deals on subscription boxes. Cadman has seen the boom in boxes grow from 200 to 2,000 on her website’s directory over the last four years. She points to big brands such as Adidas, Target and Sephora entering the market to prove that, thus far, there really is no end in sight.How It Works
Say you feel stuck in a beauty rut, but aren’t sure whether you can pull off the season’s periwinkle eyeliner. By signing up for Birchbox, often credited with igniting the subscription box trend, you can try out a bunch of trendy, high-end beauty products for $10 a month.
That’s how Cadman’s obsession began. “I absolutely loved getting my Birchbox in the mail. I called it my gateway box. For me, subscription boxes push me out of my comfort zone, especially when it comes to beauty or fashion.”
Boxes aren’t limited to just those categories; though. There’s seemingly a box for every interest, lifestyle and age group.Pay, Eat, Love
Cooking can be a chore. Luckily, for those burned out on the same old same old, there are hundreds of meal-related subscription boxes for every taste.
A popular one is Blue Apron, which launched in 2012 and delivers all the ingredients, including fresh produce and dairy, as well as the directions you need to make seasonal meals from scratch. You’ll find new favorites such as lemongrass chicken burgers without having to hunt for a recipe or push a grocery cart around (from $59.94). For the eco-conscious concerned about the massive amounts of packaging, the items are all recyclable and can even be mailed, free of charge, back to Blue Apron.
For globe-trotting foodies, Kitchen Table Passport makes a night in feel like a mini-vacation.
Blue Apron provides every ingredient for dinner, down to the herbs and spices. (Photo: Blue Apron)
“We like the idea of giving people a flavor, literally and figuratively, of a country every month. Many of us in the U.S. don’t get to travel as much as we want — whether it’s money or time or whatever — so we want to bring the world to people at home,” explains co-founder Lisa Howe. Her company pulls together a recipe and spices, mementos, music, pictures and information from a different region each month based on places she or her business partner have traveled. “A lot of the fun of putting the boxes together is reliving when I got to travel there and sharing that with other people.”
For subscriber Linda Dooley, 67, from Austin, Kitchen Table Passport (from $24.95) boxes create a special date night for her and her husband. And often, she’s surprised by how much she likes what’s inside. The Russia box was delivered with the country’s signature wooden nesting dolls, a hand-painted spoon and a questionable recipe. “The recipe from Russia sounded awful. It had five or six different meats in it, and I’m not a big meat eater. I went ahead and made it, and all the flavors blended together. It was delicious.”Look Like an A-lister
A class reunion can strike fear into the heart of any woman, whether she’s a savvy shopper or not. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a fashion expert in your corner? That’s why Mary Schaeffer, 57, from Macungie, Pa., plans to order another Stitch Fix box. Her daughter-in-law gave her the first one as a gift after Schaeffer lost 55 pounds.
“I was the one to always wear black pants with everything because I was always overweight and didn’t spend money on clothes. Ordering a Stitch Fix box was a good opportunity to get some fashionable clothes and understand how things go together,” says Schaeffer.
After Schaeffer completed a style profile online, a stylist selected five items for her to try out at home.
Stitch Fix stylists select five items to send based on a buyer’s online profile. (Photo: Stitch Fix)
“It was so much fun to open the box. I went in the room to try everything on. I kept two items — one of which was a studded top I would never have picked out but ended up liking.”
She returned the other three items in the prepaid shipping bag. (The service charges a $20 styling fee, which you can use toward the items you purchase. Deliveries are scheduled whenever you like.)
Similar to Schaeffer’s closet neglect, many women’s lingerie drawer could use some love.
“Underclub helps you make steady upgrades to your underwear drawer over time,” says Katie Fritts, founder of the subscription box service that sends one pair of panties a month to customers. She explains how the monthly arrival turns a task that can be a hassle into a delight: “There’s so many brands out there, and it’s hard to know which ones are going to work for you. We figure out which styles fit best with which body types.”
At $19.95 pre-paid per month for a year, or $24.95 month-to-month, it may seem a little expensive, but keep in mind that you’re paying not only for designer brands, but for Underclub’s ability to find you the perfect pair.Discover New Favorites
One of the benefits of being a box subscriber is you often get to try out new products, sometimes exclusive ones, before anyone else. That can be especially exciting if the box is tailored to what makes you, well, you.
For example, outdoorsy types can get their fix with Cairn contents including headlamps, freeze-dried cheesecake bites and fire starters ($25). There’s a box that celebrates single women, SinglesSwag (from $24.99), and even one for Baby Boomers called Boomerluxe, which Dawn Yager, 57, from Toronto, appreciates. “It’s a wonderful thing to focus on women our age, because the older you get, the more you’re overlooked, that’s for sure.”
Outdoorsy types can get their fix with Cairn contents including headlamps, freeze-dried cheesecake bites and fire starters. (Photo: Cairn)
Yager, who has received six installments from Boomerluxe (starting at $34.99), loves peeling open her box to find novelties such as a silver, mustache-shaped purse and beauty products created by woman-owned businesses.
“I receive them at work. All the women crowd around to see what I got. So that makes it more exciting. And sometimes I give stuff away. I’m very popular,” she says, laughing.
Seana O’Neill, Boomerluxe’s co-founder, says she works to give women a unique box of goodies.
“We go after products that are special, have a twist for women our age — geared toward our needs for skin care and colors we’re comfortable wearing.”
Although subscription boxes can be given as a gift, most women are buying them for themselves, which makes sense, says O’Neill. “Boomer women are no longer carpooling. They’re empty-nesters or near it. They have climbed the corporate ladder and raised great children. Now they have the confidence and sensibility to say, ‘Now it’s about me.’ ”
On newsstands until Dec. 5. (Photo: Studio Gannett)