Life Shop

Is Subscription Shopping the New Window Shopping?

Don't we all wish we had a personal stylist? Imagine having someone to provide you with a fast-pass to the latest trends, spirit exclusive styles straight to your closet, and hand pick stand-out items to complete your image. While the closest most of us will get to this dream is asking the sales girl at Forever 21 to bring us another size, the newly emerging market of subscription shopping might be the next best thing.

If you've been shopping online or reading beauty blogs at all in recent months, you're sure to have noticed that subscription shopping options are popping up everywhere. Usually, it works like this: you sign up with a company, pay a monthly fee, fill out a 'style profile' quiz that figures out what kind of shopper you are, and once a month or so a mystery box of hand-selected items appears at your doorstep for your perusing pleasure. Some are like grab bags—you've got to keep whatever they send you—and some give you a certain number of days to try things out and only pay for what you like. Think of subscriptions as a wine-of-the-month club for fashionistas.

While the concept took off with monthly boxes of newly-released cosmetics, there are now subscriptions available for nearly everything you could buy online. Julep sends you nail polish in an on-trend spectrum, Ipsy is a blogger favorite for a personalized monthly "glam bag" of the latest beauty innovations (and was actually started by YouTube beauty mogul Michelle Phan), Birchbox puts together Pandora's boxes of lifestyle goods for women and men, and Tog & Porter is an online personal clothing shopper that includes Skype consultations with stylists. There are subscriptions for the latest gadgets, workout wear, shoes, accessories and even snacks.

For those of us who take pride in being the curator of our own wardrobes or enjoy the thrill of the hunt, though, doesn't subscription shopping sort of take all the fun out of shopping and element of personal style out of our wardrobes? Are we becoming so lazy that we can't even shop for our own snacks? And maybe most importantly, might it be dangerous for the budget-conscious among us (or those of us who lack impulse purchase control) to have a monthly excuse to buy something new without even leaving the house? It's not hard to see oneself falling prey to the "it's already here in my hands so I might as well wear it!" mentality when sent a box of glittering goodies. 

For the ultra-busy who still want to have style, however, subscriptions might be a great time-saving solution. We all know how exhausting it can be to go from store to store looking for the perfect something and leaving empty-handed. And for people who don't live near a shopping hub, subscriptions offer the ultimate easy access to boutique items, with the members-only exclusivity, meaning you'll get sent things that you can't find at the mall. Plus, letting a professional do your shopping for you might help Plain Janes step out of their fashion comfort zone and try something they would normally overlook.

With more and more niche subscriptions starting up, we'll have to wait and see whether this is simply a fad, or if the future of shopping is not shopping at all.