There’s a Box For That

The joys of having random stuff delivered to your home every month.

By Susannah Cohen

Do you wish it could be Christmas every day — or at least once a month? Increasingly, it can. The subscription box market is exploding in the U.S. and millions of people receive an array of assorted, themed, and weird goodies in their mailboxes every week. Whatever your particular interest — be it witchcraft, pickles, solving crimes, or surviving an apocalypse — chances are there’s a box out there for you.

A survey published in February 2018 found that 15 percent of online shoppers in the country have signed up for an e-commerce subscription service, with the market growing by over 100 percent between 2011 and 2016.

What’s more, it’s an addictive purchase. The survey found that the average person has two subscriptions each. And a hefty portion of them — 42 percent of males and 28 percent of females — had three or more subscriptions. The industry even has its own organization, the Subscription Trade Association (SUBTA), which hosted over 750 attendees at its annual summit in Denver this past spring.

Much of this growth is explained by people wanting to make their lives easier. Unsurprisingly,  replenishment and meal preparation services ranked among the top 10 most popular types of subscriptions in the survey. They allow you to park your brain and never have to remember to buy razor blades (Dollar Shave Club) or plan dinner (Blue Apron) again.

Even those with a penchant for vegan jerky can sate their appetites with a subscription box. (Photo:  Louisville Vegan Jerky )

Even those with a penchant for vegan jerky can sate their appetites with a subscription box. (Photo: Louisville Vegan Jerky)

Throw in some sustainability and wellness credentials, and you can be unimpeachably au courant too. The personal care brand L. is making waves with its monthly pouches of organic tampons and pads, made without pesticides, chlorine bleaching, or fragrances.

But it’s the fun stuff that’s the most interesting — the “product discovery” boxes that deliver an element of surprise month after month. Services like Birchbox, which let you try the latest beauty products, and Hollywood stylist Rachel Zoe’s Box of Style are among the best known, but the array of subscription boxes on offer is frankly dizzying. Every time you think you have found the most random subscription boxes — you can find ones for pet hamsters and keeping chickens — up pops another. Want ugly vegetables? You can have them. What about vegan jerky, fishing tackle, or succulents? They’ll deliver those to your door, as well. Even if your interest is the state of Nevada, guess what? There’s a box for that, too.

If you really want to go down a subscription box rabbit hole, then CrateJoy is your entry point. A marketplace of things that can regularly be delivered to your house, the website offers a ridiculously comprehensive selection, with boxes divided into niche categories, like “Nerd & Fandom” and “Survival & Tactical Gear.” Wannabe witches are well-catered to with dozens of crystal-magic-herbal boxes to choose from, as are paleo dieters, comic book and anime fans, and, of course, pampered pets.

Don’t just buy a subscription box for yourself. There are also quite a few geared toward pets. (Photo:  Hamster Hamper )

Don’t just buy a subscription box for yourself. There are also quite a few geared toward pets. (Photo: Hamster Hamper)

The element of surprise might be the selling point for many of these services, but can you handle the suspense? If you really can’t wait to find out what’s in your next shipment, then online community My Subscription Addiction can help. Founded by subscription box fan Liz Cadman in 2012, the website offers reviews and coupon codes, as well as spoilers. So if you don’t want to ruin the enjoyment of unpacking your Yogi Surprise August 2018 box, look away now.

Ready to sign up for a weird subscription box? Here are a few that caught our eye.

Hunt a Killer: A new murder mystery delivered every month, and some really fun marketing, to boot. Caveat: You have to take a quiz to see if you “qualify” for a subscription.

Material World: Like Stitch Fix, but for vintage clothing. For a monthly styling fee, you’ll receive regular shipments of pre-owned designer pieces that you can buy or send back.

Introverts Retreat: A monthly care parcel just for introverts. As if you needed any encouragement to cancel all engagements, they’ll send you a novel, bath treats, and more.

Prudence and the Crow: There are plenty of book subscriptions out there. This one, though, has a particular charm with vintage paperbacks, book bags, and library cards.

Quarterly: Pharrell Williams, Bill Nye, and Lauren Weisberger are among the curators who have put together boxes for this quarterly subscription that gets delivered every three months.

Mystery Pleasure Box: You bet there’s a subscription box for sex toys. Register as a single person or one of their three couple options (female + female, female + male, male + male), and receive a melange of vibrators, condoms, lubes, and other bedroom gadgets and gewgaws on the regular.


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