I love magazine subscriptions. In part, this is because I love magazines–my attention span is just about magazine article length and I like pretty pictures. The bigger reason, though, is that I love love love mail. And reoccurring mail is my very favorite. I’ve been a Columbia House used-to-be-Record Club subscriber at least a dozen times. I’ll sign up for a sample of just about anything. I just like it when something comes in the mail for me.
Turns out, I’m not alone. Lots of us love receiving mail, and when it’s good mail, something we picked out, or, even better, a surprise that was curated for us? (Curated, in this case, just meaning selected based on our likes/dislikes by some sort of authority.) We’re sold. That’s what drew me to the independent business sample boxes I’ve reviewed here before, and to Birchbox more recently. And I’m so enamored with Birchbox, I started nosing around for more things like it.
And I found far more than I’d expected I would. Turns out, these “curated subscription services,” wherein you receive periodic shipments of something that was either picked for you, or picked by you from options picked for you, are sorta the next big thing. They’re popping up everywhere, for all sorts of products, and they’re hot hot hot. I found dozens of them. And I did not find any sort of comprehensive list. So, I thought I’d try to fill that space and provide a list.
Please realize that I have NOT tried all of these, or even most of these, services. This list is not an endorsement; it’s simply an overview of what I found in this space. And it is, but necessity, a work in progress–most of these companies are new, and some will fail, and new ones will pop up. So please, if you see anything I omitted, or anything that is here that doesn’t, as you are reading this, exist anymore, let me know and I’ll update.
Now, for what I found:
(A note on pricing: many of these services have a price cut if you sign up for several months at once. For the sake of simplicity, the prices I am quoting are their highest prices, generally for a single month.)
This is the biggest category, by far. Tons of people are hopping on the Birchbox train. The ones I found are:
Birchbox: 3-5 deluxe makeup/beauty samples each month, curated, $10 including S&H.; This is one I can vouch for–I’ve had a subscription for nearly a year, I love it, it’s more than worth the $10/month.
Julep Maven: 3-5 nail polishes and treatments each month, curated, $15 including S&H.;
Yellow Box Beauty: “Makeup of the Month Club,” curated full-sized makeup and beauty items, monthly, $34.95/month + $7.95 S&H.;
Beautyfix: 8 full-sized makeup/beauty products, selected by you from a group of options, sent quarterly. $49.95 including S&H.;
New Beauty Test Tube: deluxe makeup/beauty samples, some full sized, curated, sent quarterly. $29.95 + $8.95 S&H.; I’m going to try this one, so I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Smallflower Bath of the Month Club:curated bath products, sent monthly. $85/3 month subscription.
Added 9/21: GoGoGirlfriend: Similar to Birchbox, trial-sized beauty products sent monthly. $12.99/month for monthly boxes or $6.98/month for bi-monthly boxes.
Added 10/17/11: The Little Black Box: This is one of several monthly sample boxes for independent/handmade beauty products, as well as other things like candles and edibles. Boxes are $20/month including S&H.;
Added 10/17/11: Out of the Box Sampler: Out of the Box sampler is another sampler of independent and handmade businesses. It is available for $22/month including S&H.;
Added 10/17/11: Makeup Monthly: Makeup Monthly offers clubs for nails, makeup, or beauty care. The clubs are $20, $30, and $35/month respectively, including S&H;, and subscriptions are available for 3, 6, or 12 months.
Added 03/05/12: The Look Bag: The Look Bag is a Birchbox-esque sampler box offering 4-5 beauty samples in each monthly offering. It is curated by celebrity beautician Damone Roberts. The cost is $10/month, S&H; included.
Loose Button Luxe Box: 4-5 curated deluxe beauty samples, sent monthly. $12/month including S&H.;
Glymm: 4-5 curated deluxe beauty samples, sent monthly. $10/month including S&H.;
Added 10/17/11: Sweet Delight Divalicious Sample Box: Sweet Delights Divalicious box focuses mostly on handmade/independent beauty products. Boxes are $26 Canadian including shipping to Canada or the US.
Little Red Box: deluxe beauty samples, sent monthly, not yet launched
Haute Box: deluxe beauty samples, send monthly, not yet launched
Added 10/17/11: The Lust Pack: The Lust Pack is a monthly 5-6 deluxe sample delivery. The cost is $14.95/month including S&H.;
Glossybox: 5 curated high-end beauty miniatures, sent monthly. £10.00/month + £2.95 S&H.;
Bonbon: monthly artisan lip balm, £5.00/month, delivers throughout Europe. Not currently accepting new members.
Added 10/14/11: Amarya Beauty Box: For £10 per month, Amarya sends at least one full-sized product, along with multiple samples or trial sizes.
Added 10/14/11: Bourdoir Prive: Works just like Birchbox– £10/month including S&H; and they send 5-6 deluxe samples.
Added 10/17/11: Carmine: Another one in the Birchbox model, Carmine sends 5 “deluxe product miniatures” to subscribers each month. The price is £10/month plus £2.75 postage.
Added 10/14/11: FeelUnique Beauty Box: Offers a monthly subscription to 5 deluxe beauty samples for £9.95/month including S&H.;
This seems to be the currently fastest-growing category. I’m intrigued by it, especially as a gift option.
Citrus Lane: 4-5 curated baby products, tailored to baby’s age (newborn through 18 months), sent monthly. $25/month including S&H.;
Bluum: 4-5 deluxe baby-related product samples, sent monthly, $12/month including S&H.;
Little Passports: information about and “souvenirs” from a different country sent every month, geared towards kids. $11.95/month plus S&H.; I really, really love the idea of this one. If anybody out there does it, please drop me a message–I’d love to run a review.
Babba Box: curated monthly box with all supplies needed to do 3-4 projects with a 3-6 year old child. $29.99/month including S&H.; This is another one that really intrigues me, and I’d love to run a review if anybody has used it.
Added 10/11/11: KiwiCrate: much the same model as Babba Box, KiwiCrate is a monthly delivery of supplies for craft projects suited for a 3-6 year old child. It is $19.99/month including S&H.;
Added 10/17/11: Tiny Tots Sample Boxes: These boxes focus on indie/handmade items for children. Each box has 15-20 samples. Boxes are $23 in the US, $33 in Canada, and $58 in other countries, including shipping.
Added 10/17/11: Fluff of the Month Club: Cloth diapers! For $22.50/month including S&H;, you receive a cloth diaper delivery. Subscriptions are available for 4, 6, or 9 months, and you choose the style and size of diaper you want.
Added 10/17/11: KraftyKid Craft Clubs: KraftyKid offers lots of different options, with basic clubs, deluxe clubs, and clubs for teachers. They have clubs available for 3-6 year old kids and 7-10 year old kids. Prices vary.
Another large and growing market! I have to admit, this one is counterintuitive to me–what’s green about sending packaged products through the mail? Still, I’m intrigued.
Blissmobox: you choose between curated monthly collections of eco-friendly and organic products in several categories (this month had a beauty box, a tea and snacks box, and a romance/sex box, other months have had cleaning/laundry boxes, summer snack boxes, etc.) $19/month + $3 S&H.; This is another one I’m planning to try out, so watch for a review in the future.
Eco-Emi: curated green/natural product samples delivered monthly. $15/month including S&H.; Available outside the US for $30/month. Currently has a waiting list for new customers.
Goodebox: curated monthly samples of green beauty, health, and wellness products. $15/month including S&H.;
Uncover Me Naturals Soap of the Month Club: monthly delivery of six bars of natural soap. $25/month including S&H.;
Added 10/12/11: Conscious Box: a curated monthly collection of various environmentally conscious products, based on a monthly theme. Products include food and health and beauty offerings. $19/month including S&H.;
Added 10/20/11: Herbaria Soap of the Month Club: A smaller scale soap-of-the-month offering, Heraria sends 1 hand-crafted bar each month, for an $88 annual subscription cost.
There are a ton of these–everything from the ubiquitous “Beer of the Month” to the more interesting “Bacon of the Month” or “Cheese of the Month.” For the sake of brevity, I’m only including the curated ones I found here.
Turntable Kitchen Pairings Box: This is a cool concept. Each month, they deliver a food and music pairing–a limited edition 7″ vinyl two-track along with a downloadable digital mixtape, and the recipes and ideas for a dinner party to go along with the music, along with 1-2 premium specialty ingredients to make them. Not exactly up my alley, but fascinating. $25/month including S&H.; Not currently taking new orders.
Foodzie Tasting Box: curated monthly delivery of 6 gourmet food samples. $19.99/month including S&H.;
Lollihop:monthly box of 8 single-serving healthy snacks. $22.75/month including S&H.;
Healthy Surprise: monthly delivery of curated healthy vegan snacks. Prices vary by package size: $33/month + $5 S&H; for 5-10 snacks through $250/month including S&H; for 70-80 snacks.
PaleoPax: monthly curated selection of 5 paleo snacks. $20/month including S&H.;
Steepster Select: 3 2-3 oz pouches of curated premium loose leaf tea each month. $19/month including S&H.;
Craft Coffee: 3 12 oz bags of coffee, curated from different small roasters, each month, along with tasting notes. $24.99/month including S&H.;
Added 10/14/11: Black Box Dessert Club: High end desserts, varied based on your region, right to your door! This club is not cheap–a single month is $65-$85 depending on the box–but contains 6-8 full size artisan desserts.
Added 10/14/11: Foodiholic: For $39.99/month including S&H;, Foodiholic sends your choice of a ready-to-eat or ready-to-prepare food box. The first contains 4-6 new ready to eat items and some celebrity chef ideas for enhancing them, the second contains ingredients and recipes for a memorable meal. The selections are personalized to your diet and taste preferences.
Added 10/17/11: Adagio Tea of the Month Club: Adagio makes really good tea. Their tea of the month club, available in 6 or 12 month increments, and in flavored, herbal, black, decaf, and green & oolong varieties, sends two bags of loose tea (enough for approximately 80 cups) every other month. Prices are $39-$49 for six month and $69-$89 for twelve month subscriptions.
Added 10/17/11: Kettle Chips Chip of the Month Club: For $74.99 for a 3 month membership, Kettle Chips sends monthly deliveries of 5 4-oz bags of chips, including classics, hard-to-find flavors, and sneak peeks of unreleased flavors.
Added 10/17/11: Pasenella & Son, Vitners: Vino & Cookbook of the Month Club: This one is interesting–each month, they send a white wine, a red wine, tasting notes, and a cookbook. Price is $49.99/month, plus S&H.;
Added 10/17/11: Citizen Bean: Every month, Citizen Bean sends a pound of sustainable small-batch roasted whole bean coffee, along with extras. The cost is $79.99 for three months, $129.99 for six, and $219.99 for a full year.
Added 10/17/11: Anchor Chip of the Month Club: Every month, Anchor sends regional, unusual potato chips. Subscriptions are available in 1, 3, 6, 9, and 12 month increments of various sizes, starting at $13/month.
Graze: Nutritionally balanced single-serving snack boxes, however many days/week you’d like. £3.49/box including S&H.;
Added 10/17/11: The Chocolate Tasting Club: The Chocolate Tasting Club charges £18.95/month including postage, for which you get a box of 32 hand-selected chocolates. The selections are different every month, and recipients can choose between Classic, Dark, Purist and Elements boxes.
Jewelmint: Jewelmint is the big player in this space right now. For $29.99/month including S&H;, you pick a piece of jewelry each month from a collection curated to your taste by celebrity entrepreneur Kate Bosworth. This is club to which I subscribe and I am very happy with it so far.
Stylemint: Stylemint is from the same parent company and uses the same business model as Jewelmint, only it’s t-shirts, not jewelry. $29.99/month including S&H; gets you a t-shirt of your choice. The celebrities behind the style and curation are the Olsen twins.
Shoedazzle: Shoedazzle is another big player. It works the same way as the previous two programs, with the recipient making a monthly selection among a curated field of choices. This one is $39.99/month, though, and the selections are shoes and handbags. The celebrity name is Kim Kardashian. Shoes only up to size 11, though!
In the Mood Intimates Gift of the Month Clubs: Several monthly options, all curated, including Panty-of-the-Month, Camisole/Bustier-of-the-Month, and Bra-set-of-the-Month. Prices range from $18-$90/month.
MeUndies: Not-yet-launched subscription service for both men’s and women’s underwear.
Send the Trend: Similar to Jewelmint, only it includes non-jewelry accessories. Clients pick from among a curated set of options. $29.99/month including S&H.;
Threadless 12 Club: I kinda love this one. Every month, you get a handpicked t-shirt from Threadless! Think of the variety you could amass! $200/year for US participants; $250/year for international, including S&H.;
Added 10/14/11: Sole Society: Basically the same model as Shoedazzle, Sole Society charges $49.95/month including S&H; for your pick from a curated selection of shoes.
Added 10/17/11: Solmate Socks Sock of the Month Club: This one amuses me. Available for adults or kids, you get a pair of funky mismatched cotton socks each month. There are 3, 6, and 12 month memberships–the 3 month is $65 including S&H;, and kids’ socks are a pair-with-a-spare.
Added 10/20/11:Stitch Fix: Stitch Fix sends a shipment of clothes, based on your personal style quiz, and you keep and pay for those you like and send the rest back.
StylistPick: Similar to Shoedazzle, a curated monthly selection of accessories and shoes, based on our style profile. You select what you want to have sent your way. £39.95/month including S&H.;
Panty by Post: monthly curated pair of deluxe panties. $18.50/month plus S&H;, international available.
Books and Magazines
Books are another area that has been doing of-the-month clubs for a long time, and there is no way I could list them all here. However, I’m going to mention a couple.
Indiespensible: I absolutely love Powell’s Indiespensible book club. Every six-to-eight weeks, they sent a first edition of a new, independent book, along with some other “goodies,” typically thematically connected to the book in some way, or local to Portland. The cost is $39.99/shipment, including S&H;, and international shipping is available for $12 more.
Just the Right Book: Coming from another independent bookseller (yay!), R.J. Julia Bookseller in Madison, CT, Just the Right Book is a curated book club that has options for kids, teens, and adults. The selections are curated to individual tastes and get this–they guarantee you’ll like what they send! The service can be purchased on a monthly, every-other-month, or quarterly basis. Prices vary depending on specific program, but average about $24.99/month.
Stack America: This one I’m excited about. Every two months, you receive a curated collection of indie magazines. Lots of it is likely stuff you aren’t going to find in your Barnes & Noble. You get at least one magazine, plus extras, every two months. Subscriptions are annual and cost $75.99 in the US, with options for international shipping at higher rates.
Added 10/20/11: Chin Music Press Books Rx: Billing itself as “mail-order medicine for your mind,” this club sends a curated quarterly collection of independent literature and art, all chosen to fit a given theme. The cost is $40 for each shipment, including S&H; to the US and Canada.
Stack: Stack is the international version of Stack America. The basic service is the same, but the magazine choices and shipping options are international, and monthly or annual services are available. Prices vary depending on where you’re located.
The subscription model is traditionally more heavily marketed to women, but a whole lot of man-specific services are popping up. A few of them:
Hiskit: Birchbox for dudes. 3-5 luxury samples, delivered monthly, $12/month including S&H.;
Manpacks: This one is about convenience, more than curation–men can sign up to get quarterly shipments of necessities they choose–shirts, socks, underwear, shaving cream, condoms, etc. Prices vary based on what’s in your pack.
GuyHaus: GuyHaus is the same basic model as Manpacks, except that it’s just for toiletries. Men pick what they want and how often they’d like to have it delivered. Prices vary depending on what the client picks.
Sababu: The Undershirt Club: Set to launch in December, Sababu Conscious Clothing sends two ethically made undershirts quarterly, for $20.
Trunk Club: Trunk Club is all about curation–they send a complete “trunk” of clothes, including 8-12 items. Prices vary depending on what is in the specific trunk. The subscriber keeps/pays for what he wants and sends the rest back.
Added 10/19/11: His Black Box: His Black Box offers a personalized selection of 5 travel sized products each month, based on a survey of age and tastes. The cost is $12/month including S&H.;
Added 10/14/11: Bread and Butter: Bread and Butter is a monthly men’s skincare subscription, based on a natural product and minimal packaging ethos. Kits are customized to the client and run $35-$49 Canadian each, with free shipping to the US and Canada.
Added 10/14/11: Wibba: Wibba is a curated monthly delivery of “man stuff,” further described as “toys, gadgets, games, or gizmos.” It’s £14.95/month.
Mansbox: Though I can’t read the German site, I believe Mansbox is the German equivalent of Manpacks, offering a subscription service for undershirts, underwear, and socks.
Art & Craft
I am more than a bit fascinated by the art-by-subscription model. I had no idea it existed, and there are several price points and options.
Alula: sends limited edition original textile art quarterly. $300/year.
Papirmasse: monthly delivery of a limited edition print by an unknown artist. $5/month in the US and $10/month internationally.
Little Otsu: Another one by which I am super intrigued. For $15/quarter, you get two original “art books.” The books are gloriously illustrated mini-books about anything in the natural world. This would be such a fantastic collection to start.
Tota Press: A handmade letterpress card-of-the-month subscription! Each month brings two cards and costs $13 including S&H.; International subscription is available for an additional $2/month.
Sunrise Fiber Co. Yarn Club: Each month brings a skein of hand-dyed yarn (you pick the weight), a goodie of some sort, and a dessert recipe that ties in with the yarn colors. Subscriptions are available for 2, 4, or 6 months, at $22/month.
Added 10/14/11: Mercier Beaucoup: Mercier Beaucoup offers 3, 6, or 12 month stationary subscriptions, each month with 3 assorted handmade cards. The cost for the 3 month option is $36, plus $5 flat rate shipping.
Added 10/17/11: Three Irish Girls Pick of the Knitter Club: If you know a dedicated knitter, you probably know about the amazing yarn from Three Irish Girls. The Pick of the Knitter club offers your choice of weight and number of skeins each month, in either a solid or a handpainted colorway. Price depends on the weight you choose and subscriptions are available in three month intervals in the US, Canada, or internationally.
Added 10/17/11: Three Irish Girls Sock Yarnista Club: As the name suggests, this club is for sock yarn. Each month, members get a selected high-end sock yarn, a pattern, and possibly extras. Membership is available in 3, 6, and 12 month intervals, in the US and Canada and internationally. 3 month US membership runs $94.
Added 10/17/11: The Irish Girls Stash Menagerie Club: This is the 3IG variety club, sending a selected type of yarn each month, along with extras. Membership is available for 1, 2, or 3 skeins a month and in 3 or 6 month increments. A single skein 3-month membership is $72 in the US.
I have to tell you, this is where my heart lives. The subscription programs for things that seem only very vaguely subscribe-able. this is the market I want to see grow and flourish. And I think these are a good start:
Lost Crates: Couldn’t love this more if I tried. Lost Crates is a curated stationary subscription–each month brings a new crate of pens, pencils, paper, and associated etcetera. It’s $38/month including S&H.; This is one I’m trying, so stay tuned for a review later this fall.
Quarterly Co: This one baffles me. You choose a “cultural icon” and receive a quarterly box of physical objects curated by that person. I’m intrigued, however, by the tagline “each shipment tells a story.” Sadly, there are no current subscriptions open, or I’d try it. Subscriptions are $25/quarter.
Toys4Tails: Dog toy of the month club, curated based on your dog’s breed/size. Several subscription tiers are available, starting at $14.95/month.
Added 10/14/11: Good and Lovely: The business model for Good & Lovely is a period pampering pack. On your selected date each month, they send you a box of your selected variety of pads or tampons, as well as whatever extras you request (Midol, heating pads, wipes, etc) and a selection of soothing treats (chocolate, tea, bath products, etc.). The base price is $19.99/month, with more for add-ons.
Added 10/14/11: Feliz Box: Feliz Box is basically the same thing as Good & Lovely, but with less customization–you simply choose tampons or pads and they decide the rest. The cost is $14.99/month.
Added 10/14/11: Swuni: Similar to Good & Lovely and Feliz Box, Swuni is a monthly menstrual product delivery. However, you simply receive and pay for the product(s) you choose–no curation.
Added 10/14/11: Ohco: Like Swuni, Ohco is a monthly delivery of whatever you select. They do, however, include health and beauty samples with their shipments.
Added 10/14/11: Umba Box: The Umba Box is a monthly delivery of a surprise handmade item–accessories, home goods, jewelry, bath products, stationary, etc. It’s $26/month including S&H; and subscriptions are available for 3, 6, or 12 months.
Added 10/17/11: Z Box: The Z Box is a monthly collection of items sold on Zibbet. Two sizes are available–for $8.75 you get 8 samples, for $18 you get 15-18. Both prices include S&H.;
Added 10/17/11: Lighter of the Month Club: This one is odd and possibly brilliant. For $32.95/year ($8 more internationally), you get four stickers each month with which to customize Bic lighters.
Not Another Bill: Probably the most clever of the programs I found, this subscription promises something in your mail each month that is NOT a bill. It could be just about anything, but it’ll be something that the curator, Ned, is surprised and excited by. The price is £15/month including S&H; in the UK, £18 in the rest of Europe, and £20 in the rest of the world, all including S&H.; Couldn’t resist this, so I’ll be reviewing when mine arrives.
Jangneus Design: This one is delightfully quirky. Each month will bring a colorful, Swedish-designed cleaning cloth–you pick your color scheme. Subscriptions within the UK are £25 for the year, including S&H.; International subscriptions may be available, they ask prospective international subscribers to contact them.
Added 10/17/11: Finally, I have to point out Global Giving Project of the Month Club. This is a truly great idea. You choose a monthly donation amount, and each month a charitable project is selected for your money. You receive an email each month telling you about the project. How great an idea is that?
In doing my research for this post, I was very indebted to:
Subscription Commerce (#SUBCOM) Matrix by Sean Percival
Boxing Up Social Commerce: Hot Opportunity? by Paul Marsden
Blissmo Launches Monthly “Blissmobox”: Delivering Curated Eco-friendly Products to Your Door! by Priti Ambani
What Will The Big Winners in Subscription Commerce Look Like? by robgo
Several articles at Springwise
Added 10/14/11: Subscription service startups are the hot new thing by Harrison Weber
Added 10/14/11: Directory of Subscription Commerce Clubs by Paul Marsden