J.C. Penney and men’s apparel subscription service Bombfell have teamed up to offer boxes handpicked from J.C. Penney’s selection of "Big & Tall" men’s brands, J.C. Penney told Retail Dive in an email.
While Bombfell’s average price point in its boxes is $89 per item, that number falls to $39 in J.C. Penney's subscription box, judging from the two sites. Subscribers of the service can detail the prices they’re most comfortable paying for different types of clothing in their style profile. On either site, a $20 styling fee goes toward anything a subscriber keeps.
Subscribers to the J.C. Penney service can return anything unused, unwashed and undamaged within the seven day try-on period without charge, and shipping is free both ways. There’s no in-store return for items received through this service, J. C. Penney said.
J.C. Penney is just the latest apparel retailer to get into the subscription box business. Under Armour and Gap in October began offering new services in October, and there are several players in the space. While most are aimed at women, several do cater to men, including Nordstrom's Trunk Club and Stitch Fix, a notable market leader that in October filed an initial public offering.
The move is a response to demand, a J.C. Penney spokesman Joey Thomas told Retail Dive. "Since we know our Big & Tall customer has a strong appetite to shop online for their favorite merchandise in the sizes that fit just right – and with special sizes being one of several long-term growth initiatives outlined by the Company – we’ve partnered with Bombfell as an all-new way of connecting with this customer," he said.
J.C. Penney has a strong history of serving the special sizes customer, particularly the 'Big and Tall' shopper, in stores and online, Thomas also said. "In fact, the extended assortment of colors, styles and sizes available on jcpenney.com drive up to 20% of our enterprise business in Big & Tall – much higher than most merchandise categories."
Once the purview of music mail order clubs like defunct Columbia House, subscriptions have emerged as a retail model with both promises and pitfalls. In fact, most apparel subscription boxes aren’t really subscriptions at all, but more of a membership model with plenty of opportunities — as with J.C. Penney's boxes — to adjust, cancel or time the arrival and content of the boxes.
Much like Stitch Fix and some other apparel concierge services, subscribers fill out a questionnaire to help stylists choose items, but the stylists themselves are human beings, according to J.C. Penney's website. "We use technology on the back-end that surfaces recommendations for each user based on fit and style," according to the J.C. Penney Bombfell page. "But a real personal stylist (the sort with years of experience working in production, design and merchandising in men's fashion) has the final say."
After sending their questionnaire, customers get a preview email with items personally selected for them, and shoppers can cancel or change any item within 48 hours, according to J.C. Penney.
Not all subscription services are seeing profits or easy customer retention. Data solutions company 1010data has found evidence that customer retention has flatlined since men's grooming subscription service Dollar Shave was acquired by consumer products giant Unilever, for example. But 1010data Vice President Samir Bhavnani doesn't believe that's any indication that the model is in trouble.
"It's very early days in subscription," he told Retail Dive last month. "The model makes sense for everybody — for the merchant because they’re getting ongoing revenue without doing anything, for the consumer because they are getting a convenience, for the brand because it builds loyalty but also is increasing revenue."