The gift that keeps on giving: Why subscription boxes are shaping business in Nottingham

Kerry's fruit box has made it convenient to get local produce.

Subscription boxes have taken over the world, with a growth of almost 3000 per cent in the last three years. Bethany Johns talks to the people behind them, to find out why the out-of-the-box idea has become so successful in Nottingham too.

time is precious, with modern families juggling long working hours with family time, housekeeping and shopping. But what if there was a way to take a break from that, and leave it all up to other people?

Subscription box companies require one simple thing from customers – pay a fee, and they will send a box full of goodies every month.

This idea has become such a success that of January 2016, there were 21.4 million visits to subscription box websites.

While initially considered to be niche when they first came to the market, the unique concept has grown to include subscriptions for monthly deliveries of bagels, dirt and patches of grass for dogs.

The Dollar Shave Club, a men’s grooming company which ships out razors and refill cartridges, sold for $1 billion to Unilever in July, showing just how powerful the market has become since its creation.

In Nottingham, Hygge Box are finding their own way in trying to not only help people cut down on time spent shopping, but also encouraging them to carve out a few extra hours in their day for themselves.

The subscription box is based on the Danish concept of ‘Hygge’

The Danish concept ‘Hygge’ is the latest wellness trend, based around cosiness and looking after yourself.

Hygge Box co-founders Gabby and Sally met earlier this year, and run the subscription service out of their Lace Market flat.

They’ve only been running the part-time business for three months, but already have around 70 subscribers, many of which are gifts subscriptions for other people.

Gabby explains the reason they set up the box is because of the fast-paced life we live in the UK: “We spend so much money on our houses and we decorate them and we buy cushions and we want to make them cosy because that’s sort of how we like to life, but we don’t want to spend time in them.

“People are so into working and staying late and having that mentality that you’ve still got to answer emails at half past nine at night.

“What we try and promote is slowing down and having time for yourself and other people, so we include activities in our boxes because we want people to enjoy the simple things.”

In their words, Hygge took off because the Danish ‘are always rated the happiest people in the world,’ and this box provides people with an opportunity to take time for themselves.

“I really hate shopping, so online shopping is great for me and I will do all my Christmas shopping online because I hate physically going around shops,” says Sally.

“But this is slightly different, it’s not shopping and I think that’s what I realised.

“Even for the mundane stuff, it’s the excitement of getting something unexpected.”

“I think it’s to do with getting stuff you didn’t know you wanted,” says Gabby, who once had six subscriptions to boxes at once.

“It’s like someone sending you a gift every month, so it’s like Christmas every month.”

The box always includes a hot drink to increase cosiness.

Hygge Box use local businesses such as Chocolate Utopia, The Moon & The Butterfly and Fourbeatwalk to supply their products.

Sally said: “We’re the sort of people who get bored easily, but the Hygge Box doesn’t bore us because every month it’s different, it’s like a new business every month.

“In a normal business you have set up costs and risks, but if it doesn’t work out in a few months we won’t lose anything.

“If you’ve got a bit of space to store some boxes and a bit of social media know-how, you can set up a subscription box.”

Laura and Roland run Dewci Box, which used to be a subscription but has since become a one-off order service.

Their box was created at the beginning of the 2016, and is geared towards ‘the normal, every day’ couples who want to spice up their love life.

The box is aimed for your average ‘couple next door’.

It includes items such as chocolate, cocktails, massage oils and various other adult items.

“We’re all so busy with work commitments, kids, the gym, and life’s not slowing down,” says Laura.

“If you asked people when they were last intimate with their partner they’d have to think about it, whereas if they have a box then we can help create intimacy.”

However, after eight or nine months of trials they decided to stop the subscription service.

“Because of the nature of the box, there’s only so much you need, and it’s also quite personal for people.

“We asked for feedback and found that people didn’t find them personal enough for them, as some couples would have no use for some items, making it a waste of money.”

Dewci Box has found its success in offering one of purchases instead of subscriptions

Since offering more boxes as a one-off, they’ve found some success.

“We struggled to find stuff that was all branded, good quality and good value for money within our budget.

“Now we offer several boxes so people can choose one to suit them.”

Kerry’s Greengrocers have taken their market stalls to customer’s front doors recently, offering their own box of fresh produce.

“We found that there were a lot of London vegetable boxes, like Able & Cole, which aren’t strong in areas like Nottingham,” says Aidan Kerry.

“At the time we were the only ones doing it.”

It took around a year from deciding to make a box to actually produce them.

Kerry’s attribute their success to their local produce.

They only launched two months ago, but Aidan says everything’s on the up.

“People gravitate towards produce that isn’t from the supermarket, and want a company who cares because the produce lasts longer and tastes better.

“People want quality and that’s why we survive.

“We try and source as local as possible but this time of year is the hardest because it’s cold.”

At the moment the subscription box simplifies things, as Aidan already knows what everyone is going to have in their box when he goes to source products.

He says there’s potential for a create-your-own-box in the future, so that people can choose the fruit or vegetables they prefer.

“People want to get the feel good factor of shopping for local produce but want it to be easy, and that’s why our box is doing so well.”