With great style comes great sustainability? Rachel Zoe ventures into the world of subscription boxes

5th Mar 2015

Photo credit: Rachel Zoe

Subscription boxes – a curated, pre-packaged parcel of gifts sent straight to the consumer's door. The number of box brands is ever-growing, and whether shoppers are into cookery, cosmetics, DIY or anything in between, there is a monthly treat with their name (and address) on it. This business model not only transcends the customers interests and alleviates boredom, it also generates a serious amount of money. Beauty and lifestyle box firm Birchbox is going from strength to strength, with 400,000 subscribers and a NYC-based bricks-and-mortar store, and an increasing amount of business people are cashing in.

Celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe Rosenzweig – or Rachel Zoe – is the latest to enter the world of subscription boxes with her “Box of Style”, and we are left to ponder: will her venture prove successful?

For fans of Zoe's style, work, and “daily online style destination” The Zoe Report, they can now receive quarterly fashion, beauty and lifestyle products chosen personally by the editor-turned-fashonista and her team. Each package will contain five-eight items, and cost $100 per season or $350 a year. Speaking to WWD earlier this week, Zoe herself explained:

It’s really about targeting our audience with something special curated by me and editors at ‘The Zoe Report’ — providing a little piece of how we live everyday.”

One “hero” product will be present in each box – which will be worth the lion's share financially, for example a gold-plated screw cuff by Miansai which retails at $200. Perhaps tellingly, Zoe has implied that she does not expect to make a great deal of profit from her foray into subscription boxes, and suggesting it is more about the showcasing of new designers that excites her:

I think it’s relationships, it’s talking to friends, designers, people being interested in getting on board and getting their product out there to a certain demographic and certain people. It’s good promotion for a designer”.

When questioned regarding the likely number of subscribers to her “Box of Style” Zoe did not explicitly answer – instead quoting figures for The Zoe Report; one million unique visitors a month, two million newsletter subscribers and 11 million social media followers as the publication nears it's sixth birthday. Though undeniably impressive – especially when competing with lifestyle site rivals Gwyneth Paltrow and Blake Lively – will this guarantee her success in the the subscription box field? Though clearly a lucrative arena, could it be a flash-in-the-pan trend?

The simplicity of filling out a survey for a chosen brand, and then receiving a relevant parcel conjures an idea of instant gratification – though not of value-for-money. Once the novelty has worn off, will people tire of the idea and want to shop for luxuries themselves? The fact that firms such as Julep insist on a cancellation by phone rather than online suggests they anticipate just this. Speaking to Forbes, Agnieszka Pniewski explained that she used to subscribe to monthly box deliveries, but backed out so she could retain control of what she bought:

I like loyalty programs and curated products, which you can also get at brick-and-mortar stores,” Pniewski says. “For example, at Sephora, I’m more than happy with the level of personalized service I get, which translates to me wanting to purchase more there.”

Frugality and subscription boxes clearly do not go hand-in-hand, and the matter of sustainability must be considered. After a consumer begins to tire of the easy thrill, will they decide to take their lives once again into their own hands, by seeking their own recipes and ingredients rather than using Plated or Blue Apron to help them make dinner. Once the excitement fades, do these things really keep working?

With businesswomen like Zoe and Paltrow at the company helm, what cannot be escaped is the fact that people are not just buying a product – they are buying into a celebrity. With The Zoe Report and Goop, consumers who admire these glamorous women can attempt to evoke them, buy wearing what they wear, eating what they eat and living life in a manner that resembles their icons. The boxes make this even easier, as customers can physically don item that has been brand-approved. But what about when fans find new idols, and new lifestyle sites spring up? Though all subscription box brands are relying on the power of novelty, Zoe's does even more so than broad, established companies such as beauty firm Julep – as the popularity of her box is based solely on her popularity and continued success in her field.

It seems that while Rachel Zoe has certainly chosen a buzzing new sector in which to expand her empire, she should not stop building her brand and excelling at her career – as this forms the very basis of her new venture. In short, if she flails as a lifestyle icon, her Box of Style business will go down with her.



Elizabeth McLoughlin

My-Retail Media


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