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Unconventional Subscriptions – Taking a Nontraditional Approach to Subscription Retail

It could be because of Amazon or, more accurately, our increasing need to have everything work as fast and conveniently as our smartphones do, but subscription retail clubs have made a huge impact amongst consumers and the new generation of startups.

To be sent news, films, contact lenses, or some piece of fruit at a regular beat in the mail isn’t a new business model, but the latest crop of subscription retail clubs have seized an opportunity to provide services that are somewhat unconventional, tackling a broader set of our worldly desires and needs. From fresh razors to a mystery box of handpicked goods, this is the time of getting things delivered to your home automatically; however, subscription retailing doesn’t merely have to be treated as an alternative for people who don’t have the time or who hate to shop, it can be part of the total brand experience.

Here are some examples of how subscription retail clubs are enhancing the consumer experience with their unconventional approach:


A magazine subscription, hardly unconventional. We start this issue with a look at T-Post’s reinvention of one of the most traditional of subscription services. By combining pop and street culture stories with the graphic T-shirt, T-Post is taking streetwear back to the streets with the world’s first wearable magazine.

The T-shirt has a true story printed on the inside, whilst on the outside, an artist interprets the story to create a unique piece of graphic clothing. The idea behind the magazine is that each design will provoke onlookers to comment – and give the owner of the T-shirt the opportunity to spread the story printed on the inside.

T-Post only prints enough copies for their subscribers, limiting the people who can own the T-shirt and making the service rather special. There is something empowering, being one of a select group in the know, the T-shirt acts almost like a members club card. What’s more is that T-post is proving that print is still fashionable, even in the face of the digital onslaught.


Trunk Club’s aim was simply to address one problem – shopping for clothes in stores or online just doesn’t work for most guys: it’s overwhelming and inconvenient. By finding out the customer’s usual shopping habits, sizes, colour preferences and choices from preselected looks, Trunk Club has brought the Netflix model of contextual suggestion to clothing.

An appointed stylist handpicks clothes and accessories and sends them to the customer, along with handwritten comments next to the garments, bringing a sense of dialogue to the experience.

Trunk Club is a retail operation with a service layer, giving them the competitive edge over clothing department stores and e-commerce sites. Now with more than 30,000 members, up from 10,000 this time last year, Trunk Club is providing members with a commodity more valuable than money: time.


Changing consumer behaviour and habits is always a challenge, particularly where the function of the product cannot be addressed directly in advertising. Tampon delivery service, Hello Flo, and Dollar Shave Club, which started as a monthly razor supplier (now branching into the wet wipes market), have created hilarious commercials to communicate their nontraditional services.

Dollar Shave Club went viral with their first online video a couple years ago. With this new video, Dollar Shave Club seems to understand their audience well. It’s worth saying, only humour could tell the story of Hello Flo in a way that would be relatable, endearing and shareable.

By acknowledging the pointlessness of being coy about items such as tampons and ‘Buttwipes’, both Hello Flo and Dollar Shave Club have sparked frank discussions about topics previously hidden by allusion and innuendo. With the videos proving a hit, time will tell if consumers feel this kind of subscription may be getting a little too personal – what will people be able to subscribe to next?


Part music blog and part food blog, Turntable Kitchen has a pretty cool way of ending each post: with a recipe and a song to go with it. With the aim of introducing food lovers to music and vice versa, they offer a popular subscription service, the Turntable Kitchen Pairings Box, which is described as “a curated food and music discovery experience, delivered to your door”, and let’s face it, who doesn’t love food and music?!

Each month, members receive a box with a hand-numbered, limited edition vinyl single, accompanied by dried recipe ingredients, three seasonal recipes and a downloadable digital mixtape (also curated by the blog).

What is great about Turntable Kitchen is that it latches on to so many senses, all in the one box. Pairing products that satisfy different senses at the same time enhances the overall experience by cleverly conjuring a feeling of immersion – you are engulfed by the experience.


Starbucks is one brand that has adapted its traditional business model to meet the consumers’ habitual buying behaviour. They provide a convenient shipping service that allows you to have the Starbucks coffees and teas you want, delivered to your doorstep on a schedule you determine.

Starbucks have shown great initiative by expanding their distribution approach, especially knowing how drastically a person’s disposition can change without that morning coffee fix!

We can’t wait to see what the next big brand to embark on this type of retail experience is and what unconventional products are available for subscription over the next few months!