The rise of the subscription economy

With Pret launching its coffee subscription service this month, it’s got us thinking about other brands who’ve embraced the ever growing subscription economy… and just why they seem to be doing so well.

In the beforetime, the only things we subscribed to were magazines and gyms. Now though, you can get a regular supply of anything with just one sign-up, from fashion, beauty and food, to razors, trainers and, um, sex toys.

It’s estimated that in the last seven or eight years, the subscription economy has grown more than 300%. So what kind of brands have entered this brave new world… and why are so many customers on board?

They promise to save us money

One of the original hipster subscription brands, Dollar Shave Club, was formed precisely out of frustration with the cost of razors. After growing success in the US (Unilever bought them for a staggering $1bn in 2016), they came to the UK in 2018, and kick-started our subscription obsession.

Last November Tesco threw their hat into the ring too, with Clubcard Plus. For a monthly subscription of £7.99, it offers customers savings of up to £40 a month – linking subscription to their already-strong loyalty brand.

We get exactly what we want

Whether it’s personalised socks with Sock Geeks or a regular supply of kids’ trainers via Nike Adventure Club, many subscriptions succeed because they’re all about you, your tastes and your lifestyle.

You get to choose what you want and when you want it – and most subscription brands emphasise that you’re always in control. It’s baked into most brands’ service offering that you can pause or change your subscription whenever you like… so even chronic commitment-phobes can subscribe to their hearts’ content.

Nike adventure club

It’s just more handy

For those essentials we need, isn’t it easier just to get it delivered to your door? From healthy eating with Hello Fresh, to regular deliveries of dog food with Butternutbox, many brands are thriving by taking customers’ essentials, and packaging them up in monthly parcels.

We can access expertly curated stuff

Who doesn’t love to feel they’re in the know, with access to all the latest cool stuff? Some subscriptions cater to serious FOMO, and give customers a premium experience akin to having a personal shopper, or in-house curator.

Fashion and beauty are perfect contenders here, with Glossybox and Style Lyrical offering expertly curated products. And there’s even a subscription box for the boudoir too; The Selection Box is new to market, and delivers the latest sex toys to subscribers, every quarter.


They help us be more eco-friendly

And finally, some subscriptions help you live a more sustainable life. In the UK it’s estimated that we throw away more than £140million worth of clothing every year. So it makes sense that brands are offering customers the chance to rent everything, from designer bags and dresses with Cocoon Club and Hurr Collective, to more accessible fashion with The Devout.

So are subscriptions the future? Certainly, with Covid restricting the physical shopping experience for the forseeable, the model is looking pretty strong. In fact, according to a report by the Royal Mail, the UK subscription box market is expected to reach £1billion by 2022. That’s a share worth subscribing to…

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