The subscription box industry stormed onto the scene a number of years ago. There are now subscription box services for almost everything imaginable, with new services starting every day.
But where did it all start? And where’s the subscription box industry going from here?
Early Days of the Subscription Box Industry (Up To 2011)
Subscription services have been around for many years. Before the Internet, many people subscribed to wine clubs or received books each month or quarter.
But around 2010/2011 the subscription box industry as we know it today really got started.
Birchbox (a beauty sample subscription box) and BeachMint (which started with an affordably jewellery subscription service, JewelMint) both raised millions of dollars of venture capital investment, and ShoeDazzle (a shoe subscription service) added to the millions they’d already raised.
It looked like there was something in this subscription idea!
Growth of the Subscription Box Industry (2012 and Beyond)
Seeing the success of companies like Birchbox and BeachMint, dozens of copycat and similar businesses popped up, experimenting with the subscription box model, and VC dollars started to pour into the industry.
With the investment dollars and consumer excitement, an ecosystem started to form around the subscription box industry. Subscription box directories emerged to keep track of all the new services. And ecommerce platforms designed specifically for the needs of subscription box businesses were created.
Today, the subscription box industry is thriving with thousands of entrepreneurs running many small, and some much larger, subscription box services, catering for everyone from pet owners to stationery fanatics.
Consumer interest in subscription boxes continues to grow:
Largest Subscription Box Businesses
A number of subscription box and similar businesses have grown very rapidly, often raising large sums of investment along the way:
- Birchbox: the original beauty sample subscription box service has raised a total of $71.9 million
- BeachMint: having started with jewellery, the company quickly expanded into other categories such as apparel, shoes and lingerie, and raised a total of $74.7 million, but struggled afterwards, eventually forming a joint venture with Condé Nast’s Lucky.
- Dollar Shave Club: with huge success off the back of a wildly successful viral video, Dollar Shave Club have gone on to raise $147.8M.
- Harry’s: Another company focusing on shaving supplies by subscription, Harry’s boldly bought a 93-year-old German razor blade factory and has raised a total of $287.1 million.
- NatureBox: delivering all-natural snack foods has proven popular with consumers as well as investors. NatureBox has raised $58.5 million.
- BarkBox: bringing the subscription box concept to dog products, BarkBox have raised $21.7 million.
- ShoeDazzle: early to the subscription idea, ShoeDazzle raised a total of $66 million and was ultimately acquired by JustFab.
- JustFab: a subscription service offering personalized fashion, JustFab raised a total of $254 million.
- Ipsy: another beauty product subscription service, ipsy send their subscribers a monthly ‘glam bag’. They boast an impressive 1.5 million subscribers and $100 million of funding.
Subscription Box Directories
With the huge number of subscription boxes now available, a number of subscription box directories have sprung up to help consumers find what they want:
- Find Subscription Boxes
- My Subscription Addiction
- Hello Subscription
- Subscription Radar (UK)
- All Subscription Boxes (UK)
Subscription Box Platforms
Setting up a subscription box business used to mean building a website with subscription features largely from scratch. That part of things has now become a lot easier for lots of people.
Two services in particular now provide turnkey subscription box websites providing various features needed by subscription box businesses:
Subscription Box Investors
Investors who have placed multiple bets in some of the larger players in the subscription box industry include:
- Accel Partners (Birchbox, BeachMint)
- Grace Beauty Capital (Harry’s, Birchbox)
- Slow Ventures (Birchbox, Barkbox)
- Lerer Hippeau Ventures (Birchbox, Barkbox)
After explosive growth from 2010, the subscription box industry is now seeing a growing ecosystem of supporting products and services.
With the barriers to starting a subscription box business continuing to fall, expect to see many more budding entrepreneurs launching new twists on this successful model, pushing it in creative new directions and into new markets around the world.
What do you think is next for the subscription box industry?