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Subscription Boxes: Cure for the Reluctant Shopper

Posted September 12, 2014 by Lindsay Bosch in Building Your Brand


I don’t write the beauty column. 

I have to admit I am among a minority of women who truly hates to shop. Its not that I don’t like clothes, or looking great – its just that the act of buying them holds no appeal. At the store I find myself cringing at the disingenuousness of sales associates, and I am flummoxed by the preponderance of neon in the Fall fashion palate. I pine for the days when my grandmother declared herself “my personal shopper” and hand delivered a new collection of fashionable pieces to celebrate each school year.

Gretchen Rubin author of the bestselling book The Happiness Project, would categorize me as a classic under-buyer. She writes:

You’re an under-buyer if…
–You buy saline solution, which you use every morning and night, one bottle at a time.

–You often scramble to buy an item like a winter coat or bathing suit after the point at which you need it — and often, these items are sold out by the time you show up at a store.

–You often consider buying an item, then decide, “I’ll get this some other time” or “Maybe we don’t really need this.”

–You often need to come up with a makeshift solution, such using soap because you’ve run out of shaving cream, because you don’t have what you need.

Yes, yes and yes.   Under-buyers, like myself, feel stressed because they don’t have the things they need. We’re surrounded with things that are shabby, don’t really work, or aren’t exactly suitable. We hide under the banner of being frugal, or selective – but often times don’t take the time to acquire the tools we need to look and feel our best.

The solution for me has been the rise of the subscription box market. Right now I love monthly mailings from Birchbox for make-up, Popsugar for fashion and home goods, Julep for nail polish, and Nibblr for snacks. Every day new subscription business models enter the market and now cover a variety of industries including coffee, pet care, crafts and health food. We are in a golden age of mail order subscriptions, and the (previously unfashionable) me couldn’t be happier.

Subscription boxes have become the key to my under-buying problem. Fashion and make-up focused boxes have helped me keep my wardrobe fresh and force me to try new things. The frugal part of my brain is made to spend a little money, (and the spending hurts less when its automatically deducted monthly.)  At the same time, I’m able to see that I’m getting good value. A box I get for $40 a month, regular sends products worth upwards of $100. I’m impressed with the selection choices of many of the boxes.  As I find subscriptions that match my own style (no neon) I appreciate the expertise and careful curation of the subscription sets.

The happy surprise of new monthly items, has replaced my deep dislike of in person shopping.  I’m saved from waiting for a changing room or trying to choose between twenty-two identical looking mascaras at Target.  (I don’t know, whichever. Its just mascara.) I’ve enjoyed having items that I wouldn’t have bought for myself, and have slowly learned the joys of replacing some drugstore products with higher end items (Hey, this mascara is actually way better.) In truth, subscription boxes remind me a little of  those days  of having my grandmother as a personal shopper.  While I haven’t reached the point of subscription addiction, I’m glad for the monthly push to be a bit more fashion forward.


About the Author

Lindsay Bosch

Lindsay Bosch is an arts and nonprofit manager who has worked in cultural institutions for over decade including the American Library Association, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Film Festival. Lindsay is interested in the self-driven (and often self taught) trajectory of women’s careers in nonprofits and writes about issues related to leadership, branding and work culture. Lindsay holds a Bachelors degree in Film and Media from Northwestern Univ. and a Masters in Art History, Theory and Criticism from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is the coauthor of the art history textbook Icons of Beauty: Art, Culture and the Image of Women.