Subscription services have grown in popularity with consumers and start-ups. The standard approach often addresses an easily defined need or niche, but is not always a profitable business model: even high profile brands, such as Birchbox, have struggled. However, it’s interesting to see companies use the subscription model to challenge not just ways to purchase, but the principles of ownership – and we’re really seeing this in the maternity and baby category.
An important factor in this is the quick turnover and redundancy of garments as babies grow. And that’s also true of a mum-to-be’s wardrobe.
Bump Box, in Brazil, is offering a subscription box service for pregnant women. Their website explains: “We don’t sell, we rent. You don’t need to keep buying new clothes, just because your belly grew.” Each user selects four outfits, and the following month ships the used clothes back, to receive a new pack adjusted to their next stage of pregnancy. Acknowledging that pregnant women have more than enough to worry about before the baby is due, the Bump Box relieves them of looking for clothes that actually fit.
Another service taking advantage of children outgrowing clothes quickly is Runchkins. The subscription based model buys back used clothes and incentivises clients to repeat purchase with a store credit. Runchkins also has the option to buy “gently worn” pieces at 50% discount of normal price. The service offers monthly or seasonal delivery and subscribers can put together an outfit themselves, or use a styling service that makes suggestions based on answers given in a short quiz.
Fast fashion brands are starting to realise the value in offering subscription models to baby and maternity clothes. Gap Baby is now launching their first subscription model in the USA. The outfit boxes, which will cost $70, feature six pieces of baby clothing with a retail value of $100 or more and will be sent to customers every three months. Gap is experimenting with different types of product curation within the subscription to encourage experimentation, offering the style options “classic,” “fun,” “newborn essentials,” and “surprise me!”
On the other side of the subscription spectrum is VIGGA, a Denmark-based circular system subscription box. Vigga Svensson says, “Kids grow, but clothes don’t” which inspired the creator to come up with an innovative concept that is sustainable for the environment and practical for parents. VIGGA is an ethical and organic clothes subscription box in which, for around £34 per month, parents are sent outfits for the entire month. At the end of the month, all the items are sent back to VIGGA headquarters where they are washed and sanitised so they can be sent out to the next baby. This way, no environmental resources are allocated into producing new items of clothing – a single new baby jumpsuit can take up to 3000 litres of water to produce, the same amount of water one person uses during a month – creating a closed circle business model.
As subscription boxes start to become appealing for the general public, this particular category illustrates how fundamentally new business models can be created that make real sense to the specifics of that category. While other categories may not have the size volatility of the early years, this is a good demonstration that a subscription service doesn’t need to be one size fits all.