business news in context, analysis with attitude

USA Today this morning reports on a new study from tech firm First Insight saying that 25 percent of US consumers “are subscribing to services like beauty products seller Birchbox and the Dollar Shave Club, while another 32 percent intend to sign up for such services in the next six months,” suggesting that “when it comes to shopping, Americans increasingly would rather sit and wait than head out and browse.”

The study also found that “instead of carving out time to leisurely browse, 73 percent of men and 69 percent of women only head to an actual store when they need particular items … Getting a box of items regularly dropped on their door step appealed slightly more to men, with 28 percent currently having a subscription as compared to 22 percent of women. Among those planning to start subscribing, 35 percent of men said that was their intention, as compared to 29 percent of women.

“Millennials who've grown up being able to access information and shop with a swipe or a click were particularly attracted to retail subscriptions, with 31 percent currently paying for them, and another 38 percent saying they will in the next six months. That's compared to 8 percent of Baby Boomers who subscribe and 22 percent who say they plan to.”
KC's View:
I’ve used this example here before, but my kids and wife all are enormous Stitch Fix and Trunk Club fans … they get new clothes, don’t have to actually go to clothing stores, and end up looking pretty stylish.

It is amazing to me the degree to which subscription and replenishment services play a role in our lives … from the dozen or so Subscribe-and-Save items we get from Amazon … to the monthly coffee shipment we get from Minnesota’s City Girl Coffee (Starbucks got out of the subscription segment, and lost our drink-at-home coffee business) … to the batteries and toothbrush heads I get from Quip.

It is not that I am against bricks-and-mortar shopping. I go to stores all the time … but there is no inherent moral superiority in the bricks-and-mortar experience, and certainly not in certain categories and segments where the experience is mundane.

This is an area in which very few traditional retailers have played, but the argument here always has been that the upside here is extremely high, and there are real risks of being cut out of specific categories if they don’t engage.

The clock is ticking.