Subscription shopping services – the ones that will fill your mailbox with a steady stream of products for a fee – are one of the fastest-growing types of online retailer. You can find whatever you need, from curated clothing for the person who doesn’t know how (or doesn’t like to) shop for themselves, to disposable products like shampoo and razor blades for those who just find it annoying to regularly restock.
Do these services actually make sense for the average consumer, or are we just smitten by the novelty? It depends on what you’re after. While they all deliver regularly, each service fills different needs, from offering merely offering convenience, to peace of mind, savings and even surprises.
If your goal is saving money, anything curated won’t make sense, simply because of the added cost of someone picking things out for you. For instance, the cheapest item on Trunk Club’s website is tees – starting at $40. That has to be a heck of a t-shirt.
And, by all accounts, it is. The people who shop Trunk Club, or have Trunk Club shop for them, are into $40 t-shirts and $200 sweaters. They also have a personal shopper assigned to them, who gets the lay of the land of the customer’s closet through Skype or by phone. Every trunk comes with an extensive questionnaire, and you only pay for what you like out of the box, sending the rest back. This service comes at what appears to be a 10 to 15 percent markup from retail.
For its target consumer, Trunk Club is providing a commodity more valuable than money: time.
But for the people who value money and time, is there anything for them?
For a man, razors are one of the biggest rackets in consumerism. We know that for a close, effective shave we should change the cartridge in our razor at least monthly, if not bi-weekly. When you run out, you trudge to the store expecting to get taken advantage of by Gillette. And you are, to the tune of $30 to $40 for a package of eight cartridges. For a good shave, that adds up to roughly $100 per year.
Dollar Shave Club offers an easier way. For a dollar per month (plus shipping), the company will send you their basic two-blade razor and five cartridges per month. Although adequate for most people (especially those without thick beard growth or expert shavers), there are upgraded razors available for $6 to $9 per month. With some simple math, the basic razor allows you to change cartridges much more frequently than the store-bought options, and only costs you $36 per year, including shipping, for the privilege.
If your goal is saving money, anything curated won’t make sense.
You also avoid awkward trips to the pharmacy, where the lady in your life might also ask you to pick up tampons. Speaking of which …
Yes, there are no less than seven tampon subscription services flowing (sorry) into the marketplace. One of the best designed, Hello Flo, apparently bases its subscriptions on the amount of flow the lady expects, ranging from $14 to $18 per month for tampons, pads, pantiliners, and some “delicious treats.”
Why doesn’t Dollar Shave Club offer candy? Shaving is just as stressful!
Anyway, Hello Flo sends your package five days before you expect your period, so you’re always prepared. They use well-known brands, like Always, while some of its competitors makes their own products or specialize in higher-end wares.
Do you save money? Probably not. Peace of mind, on the other hand, may be priceless to a lot of women.
For products that are regularly used, particularly consumer goods, another option might be Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program, which offers household supplies, health and beauty products, pet goods and other products at a regular interval that you choose. Simply choose what goes into your box and it gets sent to you with free shipping. Amazon also says Subscribe & Save can save you up to 15 percent on everyday prices. For things you know you are going to use, like shampoo, this could be a gold mine.
Then there is a commodity that is hard to put a price on: whimsy.
Some people are into funky socks. If that is you, there are quite a few subscription services willing to send you a cool pair of socks each month for around $10, Foot Cardigan and Sock Club being the most popular. Again, you’re probably not saving money, but if you’re into socks that look like a hamburger, you might have a tough time finding them yourself. The service therefore saves you time.
For crafty people, For The Makers will send you a monthly box with the materials and instructions necessary to make four crafts per month, like jewelry or tote bags, for $29. This sounds like an awesome gift for a closeted Pinterist fan who doesn’t think they can do the projects on their own.
No matter which of these services – or the hundreds of others that are springing up – fill a need for you, they all guarantee one thing that you haven’t seen in a long time: something arriving from the United States Postal Service that you actually look forward to every month. When is the last time that happened?