Subscription box popularity rockets during Covid-19 pandemic

The popularity of subscription boxes has soared during the pandemic, with almost half of all consumers now treating themselves to at least one surprise or gift on a monthly basis.

Companies such as Hello Fresh ship full meal kits to people's doors.
Companies such as Hello Fresh ship full meal kits to people's doors.

In an average month, shoppers receive three deliveries from a retailer they have a delivery subscription with, according to a report from the Royal Mail.

Almost half of UK online shoppers now subscribe to some kind of subscription delivery service – up from 34 per cent last year.

Subscription boxes began in the US and emerged on this side of the Atlantic over a decade ago.

They offer treats - for a monthly fee - from beauty products to craft kits and snacks. Some companies, such as Hello Fresh, which delivered 280 million meals worldwide last year, send ingredients for full meals, which recipients then cook themselves at home – but without the hassle of shopping or deciding what to eat.

The report found that almost one in ten have a regular subscription box service. Food, shaving products and clothing are the most popular subscriptions.

Four in five shoppers consider it is important for their subscription box to fit through a letterbox. This has given rise to a host of packaging innovations in the sector, including letterbox-able flower bouquets from Bloom & Wild and brownie boxes from Lola’s Cupcakes.

Of those who buy subscription boxes, 47 per cent subscribe to these services for price, 41 per cent for convenience, 39 per cent for a treat and 18 per cent as gifts.

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Nick Landon, chief commercial officer at Royal Mail, said: “With online shopping habits changing, it’s important for retailers to ensure repeat business and customer loyalty. Offering a subscription service is a really effective way of doing this. It’s all about seizing opportunities that the new normal has presented and delivering what consumers want.”

A comprehensive report published by Royal Mail last year said that subscription services are growing at a “phenomenal” rate, with growth of the UK market set to reach an estimated £1 billion in value by 2022.

Subscription companies said that as well as consumers looking to treat themselves – or someone else – during the pandemic, their services are in demand from corporate firms, which want to send thank you presents to employees working from home during lockdown.

Becky Avery, owner and founder of candle subscription service Hazel & Blue, said: “I have noticed a significant increase in our seasonal candle subscription boxes, particularly due to the current situation.

"Customers are looking for a thoughtful gift for their loved ones, friends and family. I have also seen an increase in orders from corporate companies recently as they look to say ‘thank you’ to their colleagues for their work over the last year.”

Emily Atkinson, founder of The Beautiful Book Company said: “We've seen a dramatic increase in our subscriber numbers this year since the start of lockdown back in March. Our business has really connected with customers as a way to look after friends and family who are self-isolating."

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