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Subscription boxes aren't just for Stitch Fix and Blue Apron anymore.
Traditional retailers such as Target and Walmart are picking up on the trend and rolling out their own subscription services for make-up, kids clothing, and athletic apparel. Building on the success of names like Birchbox, Dollar Shave Club, and Trunk Club, established brands like Gap and Under Armour hope they can create their own box model to woo shoppers.
If nothing else, subscription boxes offer companies a treasure trove of data — retailers learn what items customers are responding well to, or what inventory should be phased out.
A subscription service becomes attractive when companies can forecast revenue, but standalone businesses (like Blue Apron) have also struggled to balance sales against the steep marketing costs required to keep membership up. For Target and Walmart, though, the boxes are only a sliver of their overarching businesses.
Here are 7 traditional retailers that have launched their own subscription boxes:
Target already has a Beauty Box and Baby Box, and just this past week it revealed plans to roll out a Cat & Jack Outfit Box, which includes clothing from its own wildly popular kids line. The clothing box, which retails for $40, will include six to seven Cat & Jack items with every shipment. The box can either be ordered on a quarterly basis or one time only. The boxes will be available at the start of each season, in sizes newborn to 24 months. They will also include items in the next size up to keep pace with a growing baby.
Walmart has a Beauty Box that's only $5. Yes — $5. Four times per year, shoppers will receive a box filled with name-brand products such as Maybelline eyeliner or Tresemme hair spray. While unlikely to contain the high-end banners one would find tucked inside Birchbox, Walmart's box will have essential products that women are bound to use as a part of their beauty routine. And at $5, that's a bargain that's hard to beat.
New York & Co.'s subscription service is another spin on the now-famous Rent the Runway model, where the clothes aren't meant to be kept forever. Items can be ordered via the NY&C Closet, where shoppers will pay $50 to have 3 garments sent to them for unlimited wear. Then, a shopper will return those items when she is ready for a new box. However, she always has the option to purchase a garment permanently, if there's a top, a pair of work pants or a dress in her box that she really loves.
Ascena Retail Group's Ann Taylor has a subscription service known as Infinite Style that allows shoppers to rent three items at a time for $95 a month, again similar to Rent the Runway. A shopper is just asked to return all of those garments when she's ready for a new box. But if there's something she really wants, she can purchase the clothing at a discount to the retail price. Ann Taylor describes the platform as a "never-ending online closet."
With each delivery, Gap's Baby Outfit Box contains six pieces of clothing for growing babies, which are shipped to shoppers' homes every three months. The company said the boxes contain more than $100 worth of products inside, but they retail for only $70. Similar to Target's Cat & Jack Outfit Box, Gap's Baby Box is perfect for moms on the go with young children who are quickly outgrowing their clothes. It aims to take the stress out of constantly shopping for babies' wardrobes.
Building on the success of its box for babies, Gap launched another subscription box, this one under the Old Navy banner. The Old Navy Superbox is a quarterly subscription for kids ages five through 12. Each box includes six items and retails for $70, with more than $100 worth of clothes, according to Gap. After choosing a child's size and gender, shoppers pick a style — options include "preppy," "sporty," "cool" or "classic." From there, Gap does the curating.
J.C. Penney marks the first department store to jump on the subscription box bandwagon. In a partnership with Bombfell (a service similar to that of Stitch Fix and Trunk Club), Penney has created boxes that cater to its big and tall male customers, a demographic the company said is growing quickly. Using the service, a customer would take a style quiz that then selects five of the department store chain's items to be shipped. Once that package arrives, a customer has seven days to try on items. Clothes or accessories that are kept are paid for, and everything else can be shipped back at no cost.
Under Armour's Armour Box is unique in that there's no initial fee. A shopper would sign up for free, receive a specially curated box (based on a profile quiz) every 30, 60 or 90 days, and then take a week to decide what pieces are worth keeping vs. what he or she would rather return. The key to this box's success is that shoppers get a 20 percent discount on any products they hold on to. Every box includes four to six items chosen from one of Under Armour's "official outfitters."