Subscription boxes- are they here to stay?

During the last eighteen months as we were locked down at home, there was a sharp rise in convenience culture that drove our day to day lives. This was defined by ordering almost everything and anything online, from food, books, flowers – even to eco-friendly deodorant.

As people were unable to bring a bunch of flowers or even a bottle of something fizzy to celebrations, Britons turned to the internet to find gifts for their friends and family. The statistics are staggering, as searches for “food gifts” increased by 427% during 2020, and around 33,000 people were consistently buying gin gift sets each month.

Even though we are coming out of lockdown for (hopefully) the last time, this shift towards subscription boxes seems to be sticking around. Whilst 30% of consumers state that this is because of the instant mood-boost from hitting subscribe, it is also crucially due to the convenience of these parcels which deliver everything you need straight to your door.

A year on from lockdown, it has been reported that nearly one in five (17% of consumers) are now admitting that they have signed up to a monthly subscription service for products. A break-down of the most popular subscription services is not surprising; with food subscription services remaining the most popular (at 29% of physical subscription buyers), with beauty/ grooming coming in at 20%, alcohol at 10% and heath / fitness products at 9%.

The ever-expanding offering from subscription boxes may be the root cause of this sustained popularity. Whilst it used to be a subscription to Hello Fresh if there was an offer on, you can now sign up to receiving anything and everything in the letter box each month; from cocktail making ingredients, beauty boxes and even pasta subscriptions. It seems that this shift came from people fundamentally wanting something special to look forward to each month, the feeling of which is now a part of their daily life that they are not willing to give up.

So how can the market continue to grow and sustain this popularity? It seems that whilst product offering was enough to hook people in last year, companies now need to keep their subscriptions feeling fresh, exciting and personalised to keep people subscribed month after month. Boxes offering a personal touch are likely to remain popular, such as Willoughby Book Club which offers novels based on your likes or Toppbox which can be personalised to your very own beauty routine.

In the long run, the culture of convenience that lockdown created is likely to keep subscription box sales high, and in fact could show a seismic long-term shift in how we shop for ourselves and others. Much like online grocery shopping seemed impossibly futuristic ten years ago, we may look back on this time as a “I can’t believe we ever lived without it” in a decade or two. Only time will tell…