Under Armour is the latest retailer to launch a subscription box service — ArmourBox — which includes four to six items curated by a "dedicated Official Outfitter" and sent every 30, 60 or 90 days as chosen by the customer, according to the company’s website.
The service and shipping both ways is free. Subscribers have a week to try things on (Under Armour warns against working out in the clothing) and get 20% off if they opt to keep everything they were sent.
If customers don't want to keep items, they notify Under Armour via their ArmourBox dashboard. While customers can’t pause or skip an incoming box, they can change the frequency, the company said.
Under Armour joins Gap to become one of the latest apparel makers to join the subscription box space, and the news comes just days after Stitch Fix, a notable market leader, filed for an initial public offering. 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.
Apparel sales 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 content of the boxes.
Workout wear may be especially conducive to the model, Samir Bhavnani, area vice president at data solutions company 1010data, told Retail Dive. That firm found evidence that customer retention has flatlined since men's grooming subscription service Dollar Shave was acquired by consumer products giant Unilever. But Bhavnani doesn't believe that's any indication that the model is in trouble.
"It's very early days in subscription," he said. "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."
People with regular workout routines often have favorite workout items like running shoes and generally know how often they replace them, making Nike, Adidas, Under Armour and other retailers selling athletic wear well-positioned for the model, Bhavnani said.
"Working out, running shoes, those things have a lifespan, and people are tracking their runs on their phones. It's logical, if you have pair of running shoes you like, that every time I wear them out I want a replacement to be ready," he said, noting that add-ons like headphones and other peripheral products that also regularly wear out, but are crucial to a workout, could also become part of the set-up. "We're going to start seeing subscription services in product categories that you wouldn’t have imaged possible before."