Building on a pilot launched in May for frequent shoppers, Gap has launched a subscription service for BabyGap merchandise now available to anyone, according to Internet Retailer and the brand’s site.
Each box, containing six season- and size-appropriate pieces, is $70 but worth $100 or more, according to the company. Subscribers begin with a size and theme, and they can take 21 days to decide whether to keep them. Shipping and returns are free. Themes, like "classic" or "fun," can be changed, and Gap does the math when it comes to sizes for a growing baby, according to Internet Retailer’s report.
The launch has been quiet, with little mention of it on the retailer's social media pages, though a brand spokesperson told Internet Retailer that promotions on social media are ongoing. It’s not clear how long the retailer will offer the service, according to the report.
Once the purview of music mail order clubs like Columbia House (which went out of business in 2015), subscriptions have emerged as a retail model with both promises and pitfalls.
They are a growing retail sales method, but it’s not yet clear how profitable they are. The approach has been embraced by pure-play beauty brands like Ipsy and Birchbox as well as physical stores like Sephora.
Apparel sales seem to involve especially complex logistics, though. In fact, most apparel subscription boxes aren’t really subscriptions at all, but more of a membership model with plenty of opportunities — as with Gap’s outfit boxes — to adjust, cancel or time the arrival and contents of the boxes.
"The subscription-based approach works well in retail for repeatable consumables, which means when consumers need to renew every four weeks at most," Isabelle Roussin, chief solution expert at omnichannel solution provider SAP Hybris Billing, told Retail Dive in an email last year. "Some retailers have stood out in their subscription models by bundling the subscription with the right loyalty programs as well as offering discounts on cross-line of products."
Companies like Harry’s and the Dollar Shave Club have upended the so-called razor/razorblade model of commerce through their subscription services. They've done that mainly by ensuring that the replenishment package (which may also come with add-on goodies like shaving cream) arrives on a regular basis. But sales at Dollar Shave Club, acquired by Unilever last year for $1 billion, have sputtered despite a continued marketing push to acquire customers. That suggests the company's subscription model may have a limited niche among consumers.
When it comes to fashion, the logistics are complicated by a host of variables, like style and fit, that are not nearly as consistent as the replenishment of known quantities of consumer product goods. That, in turn, could lead to more returned products. Those factors would seem to be only exacerbated by the unpredictable growth spurts of very young children.
There are apparel players operating in the space, most prominently Stitch Fix, in business for just five years, and which has garnered backing from venture capital firms to the tune of $46.75 million. The startup quietly filed for an initial public offering this summer, but its prospects may be undermined by Amazon's own version, dubbed Prime Wardrobe, currently in beta.