Suffering from a pre-holiday “what to give” headache? The prescription may be a subscription.
Subscription gifts, one of the hottest retail trends, literally keep on giving: New installments arrive over the course of weeks or months. Gift recipients can also cancel the subscription at any time, so if you buy the first month or two, they get to make the call on whether they stick with it after the holiday buzz has worn off.
While the idea isn’t new (remember those record-of-the-month clubs?), the breadth and variety of what you can subscribe to is. Everything from Anna Sui makeup to zebra masks for kids. Freshly-pressed records, juices and high-fashion togs. Mystery boxes for people and for pets.
If your loved one is more into content than stuff, consider ordering a subscription for e-books, movie passes or classes in art, cooking or exercise.
“They’re a great improvement on the gift card,” says Neale Martin, a consumer expert and CEO at Sublime Behavior Marketing in Marietta, Georgia. Like gift cards, subscription gifts are easy to buy, especially last-minute, at a variety of prices, but they also can be highly customized.
“The idea of giving a present that will be bringing smiles for months creates a very powerful reinforcement,” he said.
Liz Cadman founded a website, MySubscriptionAddiction.com, devoted to boxes containing a mix of items each month. That improves the odds that your recipients will like what you gave them, she says: “Boxes give you variety. Most include five-plus items, so you know someone’s going to like at least a few of them.”
For ideas, here are some online offerings:
One place to start your hunt for subscription boxes is Cratejoy, which describes itself as the “world’s first subscription marketplace.” Featuring mostly home goods subscriptions but also branching out into fashion, food and other types of boxes, Cratejoy presents visitors to its site with new and trending subscriptions, rated and reviewed by users so you can hopefully avoid duds (cratejoy.com).
Set your style parameters at Linen Crate and get a monthly box of tablecloths, placemats, towels or rugs, as well as coordinating items like platters and spa accessories (linencrate.com).
Barkbox lets pets in on the subscription-gift game with dog and cat toys and treats arriving monthly.
The edible subscription universe is vast and varied — with too many options to list them all here.
Some can be almost alarmingly targeted. A Bacon of the Month Club will deliver different varieties of gourmet bacon to you 12 times a year (baconfreak.com). Candy Japan sends two to six different kinds of Japanese candy, twice a month (candyjapan.com). And health nuts may enjoy Pressed Juicery’s packages, sending an array of green, root, citrus and fruit juices to your door (pressedjuicery.com).
Of course, there’s simpler options. Club W seeks to cut out your trip to the liquor store by sending you three to six bottles a month, tailored to your “Palate Profile” (clubw.com). Alternately, the Craft Beer Club aims to do the same for beers, offering 12 world-class beers every month (craftbeerclub). Be advised: Alcohol shipments require an adult signature to accept, so either make sure you’re home when the tracking number says it’ll be there or have your boxes shipped to a workplace.
BEAUTY & FASHION
There are all kinds of beauty, fashion and wellness subscriptions, many of which ask you to describe your personal style and makeup parameters and take it from there.
Birchbox, a subscription pioneer, offers monthly boxes of sample sizes and one full-size product (birchbox.com).
At Quarterly, prominent curators like fashion guru Nina Garcia, actor Will Wheaton and science icon Bill Nye create their own boxes and include a personal note explaining their choices. Nye’s boxes, for example, have included bow ties and cardboard DNA models (quarterly.co).
With Stitch Fix, five new women’s wardrobe items chosen by a stylist, appear at the door. Send an e-gift card that your recipients can redeem; the select delivery dates, keep what they want and return the rest in the prepaid mailing bag (stitchfix.com).
Chicago-based Trunk Club has boxes for men and women and stylists’ selections can be previewed and approved online. When the items arrive, you can nix them if they don’t fit or don’t look right (trunkclub.com).
Cadman recommends Popsugar Must Have as a subscription gift for women, offering a variety of beauty, fashion, home, food and fitness items. October’s box included a satin pillowcase and a gift card for monogrammed jewelry
For men, try Bespoke Post, Cadman says: “It’s $45 a month and they deliver high-quality items (think ties, barware, grooming kits, shoes, etc.). Each month they announce new box options, and your giftee gets to pick which one they want.”(bespokepost.com).
Or give a gift that keeps on giving. With Dollar Shave, subscribers choose the style of blade and razor they want and refills arrive on a regular schedule (dollarshaveclub.com).
FUN & GAMES
Arts and crafts are a fun subscription gift for children, because each month brings a new box of creative possibilities. Check out Green Kid Crafts and Art in a Box
Tinker Crate offers puzzles and engineering challenges for 9- to 12-year-olds (tinker.kiwicrate.com).
Spangler Science Club, aimed at kindergartners through sixth graders, sends enough stuff each month for over a dozen science experiments (spanglerscienceclub.com).
GiftLit sends monthly book boxes, while Brickbox’s niche is — you guessed it — all things Lego (giftlit.com;
Expose your budding 3- to 12-year-old traveler to new places with Little Passports. Young armchair globetrotters get started with a little suitcase and a map. Then comes a monthly array of activity kits, gadgets, stickers and souvenirs that explore sciences and world cultures
Citrus Lane sends boxes skewed to babies, toddlers or preschoolers, full of quality toys, games and snacks
Matthew Reddin contributed reporting to this story.