From sex toys to Star Wars collectibles, niche subscriptions make perfect gifts for hard-to-buy-for friends

By
Associated Press

18:25 EST, 4 December 2013


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18:25 EST, 4 December 2013

Sex toys. French films. Star Wars action figures. Erotic photos. What do these things have in common? They’re the gifts that keep on giving – about every month.

Dozens of online subscription businesses have popped up offering to ship boxes of different goodies within a given niche or theme, like makeup or travel, each month. Most often, the exact products remain a mystery until they’re shipped.

These monthly subscriber services have
gained fans among those who appreciate novelty and surprise. But as
their popularity has grown, the list of products they offer has gone
from ordinary (Think: hair products) to really niche (Think: black
socks) to naughty (Think: vibrators.)

Subscription services

Special delivery: Experts say subscription services that deliver niche gifts like socks and sex toys are poised to do well during the holiday season because there aren’t a lot of must-have gifts on people’s wish lists

Overall, subscription services account for less than one percent of the nation’s $231billion online business, excluding the movie subscription service Netflix, Forrester Research estimates.

But experts say they are poised to do well during the holiday season because there aren’t a lot of must-have gifts on people’s wish lists.

‘There’s so little that’s new to buy
for the holiday season,’ said Candace Corlett, president of WSL
Strategic Retail, a retail consultancy. ‘The idea of a subscription
service is fun and exciting.’

Of course, shoppers have long been able to order fruit, movies or wine through monthly services.

But since online subscriber service
Birchbox launched surprise makeup samples in 2010, there’s been an
explosion of these businesses that focus on nearly every desire
imaginable.

‘There’s so little new to buy for the holiday season – subscription services are fun and exciting’

Boinkboutique.com delivers vibrators and other sex toys and features plans like a $25 monthly ‘make out’ box.

Blacksocks.com, which has 60,000
subscribers, sends three pair of socks, including striped and colored
versions, four times a year for $118 annually.

And for $45 per box, Trytheworld.com
ships hard-to-find food items like jams and fine teas and cultural finds
from Paris, Tokyo and Rio.

Trendy gift: Since online subscriber service Birchbox (pictured) launched surprise makeup samples in 2010, there's been an explosion of these businesses that focus on nearly every desire imaginable

Trendy gift: Since online subscriber service Birchbox (pictured) launched surprise makeup samples in 2010, there’s been an explosion of these businesses that focus on nearly every desire imaginable

Trytheworld.com, which launched in August, declined to say how subscribers it has, but co-founder David Foult said it’s reaching customers who ‘love the idea of traveling and discovering new cities’ but ‘don’t necessarily have the time or the money to do so.’

Balthazar Simoes, an erotic photographer for years, took the idea of discovery a step further with his service. For $10 a month on his website, callmebalthazar.com, ‘Peek in the Mail’ subscribers receive two five-by-seven inch photos of erotica.

Simoes said about a few dozen subscribers have signed up for the service since it launched last year, and he insists it’s striking a chord with voyeurs and amorous couples. ‘It’s a novelty to get beautiful prints in the mail,’ he said.

The novelty of subscriber services, in
general, are resonating with people like Moire K Tivenan, 28, who was
stumped on what to get as Christmas gifts for her family – until she
found subscription services.

Nerdblock

For that special someone: Nerdblock.com is a $19.99 monthly service that sends a box of T-shirts and collectible figures from brands like Star Wars and Marvel

She wound up getting her 21-year-old brother a subscription to Birchbox for men’s grooming products like shaving cream for $20 a month. She signed up for My Ireland Box, a box of goodies and crafts from Ireland like shamrock oven gloves for a $150 three-month subscription, for her mother.

And for her 24-year old brother, she
turned to Nerdblock.com, a $19.99 monthly service that sends a box of
T-shirts and collectible figures from brands like Star Wars and Marvel.

‘It’s always a surprise for both of us because neither of us knows what they’re going to send’

‘I picked something specifically geared toward their tastes,’ said Tivenan, who lives in Brick, New Jersey.

‘At the same time, it’s a surprise for both of us. . . because neither of us knows what they’re going to send.’

Not every subscriber service is successful, though. SecretSexBox.com promised ‘better sex to your doorstep’ for just $19.95 a month with a box of products that featured a different sexual theme. But the site’s owner called it quits in September after just over a year in business.

Turns out, the monthly subscriptions were too frequent, said founder Tom Nardone. Long-term subscribers wound up with a ‘nightstand full of stuff,’ he said.

‘Getting a new box of sex toys and romantic gifts every month sounds like a great idea,’ Nardone said. ‘But in practice it wasn’t.’


Comments (2)

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Kelly,

PA,

1 hour ago

Will have to look at Nerdblock for my son. He’d love it!

Foxtrotsierra,

Northern Plains, Isle Of Man,

3 hours ago

Well, I have to admit I have got my Mum a Birchbox subscription for this Christmas as she keeps pinching all the samples out of mine. I think subscription boxes are great – just need to get my husband to get the Nerdblock one for me!

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