As I type this, the weather is a beautiful 83 degrees in Austin, TX. This means that I’m wearing one of my favorite Spring dresses from last year. It’s yellow with blue flowers, has the perfect size and cut of spaghetti straps, with an empire waist that “slims” me in all the right places. In fact, when taking my son to the orthodontist today, I received two compliments!
It’s days and outfits like this that put a little extra spring in my step!
So where did I get this dress, you ask? It came from my latest shopping obsession over the last few years – the subscription box.
My path to personalized shopping – the subscription box
Confession time. I subscribe to two different subscription boxes once a month – the tried-and-true StitchFix and Daily Look.
For years, I avoided these services because I didn’t want to commit myself to recurring charges. Plus, I was a little unsure of having someone else do the shopping for me.
It wasn’t until my very good friend starting raving about her subscription services, and how much fun it was, that I slowly started coming around to the idea.
If I’m being honest, the real reason I moved towards subscription boxes was because I had become extremely stressed and overwhelmed by the whole shopping experience.
As a working mom of two, time is a luxury. I wasn’t thrilled about spending hours helplessly combing through racks and racks of clothes, only to end up empty-handed. Which is exactly what was happening. I found myself not enjoying the retail experience at my favorite apparel stores like I used to. There were far too many options and none of them seemed just right for me.
But not all was lost.
(Quick sidenote, in addition to jumping on the subscription box bandwagon, I started spending more and more time, and money, at a local Austin-area apparel boutique, Grit & Grace, co-owned by a college friend. The concept of her shop, and many others, is simple and brilliant. A smaller, curated selection of beautiful and trendy clothes and only offering one to two of each size per item. With this approach, I knew it was highly unlikely that I would be wearing the same outfit as other people in my town. I was also supporting a local business. Perfect!)
The joy of the box!
After doing my research and comparing the styles, prices, and customer reviews at the wide variety of subscription box options, I took a chance and subscribed to the aforementioned StitchFix and Daily Look.
For me, this new approach to shopping has been a gamechanger, as it has for millions of other subscribers. Each month, my “personal stylist” sends me curated apparel and footwear items to select from. Then, I send back the items I don’t want to keep. Easy!
Even though I typically know what is going to be in my boxes, due to the preview feature that both companies offer, it still feels a little bit like Christmas morning every time a box is delivered to my front porch. It’s made shopping fun again.
What’s more, I’m excited now about the items in my wardrobe, and I love the compliments. I only wish I had started the service sooner.
Challenges ahead for subscription box companies
As much as I have raved about my experiences so far, there have been a few bumps in the road. For each service, it took a good six months and a few personal stylist changes to get things right.
For example, I have short legs, so I am very particular about the length of my jeans and shorts. I must remind my stylist from time to time about this and other preferences that I have. Some boxes have missed the mark completely and I have to send everything back.
Even with all of this, the time I’ve gained back and the quality of clothes I’ve accumulated over the past few years more than outweighs any mistakes or misses in my service.
But there are challenges ahead for these services.
Research shows that the subscription ecommerce market is projected to reach over $450 billion by 2025, up from $15 billion in 2019. Impressive numbers, but can they be sustained?
According to CNBCs Lauren Thomas, “Not that long ago, major retailers were scrambling to get in on the subscription craze sweeping the apparel industry. But then the pandemic upended daily routines and made shopping behaviors far less predictable. Now, some analysts and investors are questioning the appeal of these types of businesses and their ability to hold onto customers, who often sign up during a big life change but eventually lose interest.”
Battling subscription box fatigue
While this hasn’t been the case for me, the stats do show that many shoppers are experiencing box fatigue. Many are rethinking their investments in subscriptions in general:
- Over the last year, Stitch Fix has lost 95% of its value as the company’s attempts to expand beyond subscriptions have floundered.
- M Science, an analytics firm, says new customers account for a predominant share of sales at Stitch Fix, but their spending generally drops off over time. Roughly 40% of Stitch Fix’s revenue has been generated by new customers since its fiscal first quarter of 2020, the firm found.
- Data from Kearney shows that 40% of consumers think they have too many subscriptions. The survey indicated that the most spending is on streaming plans, followed by music and video subscriptions, gaming, food memberships, and beverage boxes. Shopping subscriptions, which includes fashion, came after all of those categories.
What does the future hold for subscription boxes?
Time will only tell how things will shake out with these services, but things look a bit bleak right now.
As recently reported in RetailWire, Blue Apron and Rent The Runway announced layoffs last year while restructuring. Birchbox announced in November it was considering bankruptcy.
The Atlantic reported last year that “the subscription space was undergoing a shakeout.” Columnist Amanda Mull wrote, “As more markets become oversaturated with these kinds of services, more buyers will get bored of the concept entirely, and investors will eventually become weary of waiting for profit.”
As a new fan of subscription boxes, I am saddened to hear this. But if the business model doesn’t work or excite shoppers, then their long-term viability is at risk.
In my own personal experience, it hasn’t always been perfect. But as far as I’m concerned, it sure beats the alternative. And have I mentioned the compliments I receive when wearing one of my new subscription box outfits?
All kidding aside, I hope that these companies continue to evolve and adapt to ever-changing consumer behavior. It won’t be easy. I’ll leave that part to the experts, save one suggestion: be sure to keep the “joy” of personalized shopping with a monthly or quarterly box of new apparel items at the center of every decision. That’s what brought me here in the first place, and what will, hopefully keep me sticking around.
If you have any comments or insights on subscription boxes, our crew would like to hear from you! The Ketner Group team loves to talk retail! Give us a shout to learn how our retail expertise can help elevate brand awareness and support your marketing goals.