Place-Based Subscription Boxes Help Share City Brands

People who love their cities will be able to more easily share (or receive) carefully curated pieces of home if a new trend in subcom, or subscription-based ecommerce, takes off: place-based subscription boxes.

By Lisa Battles on September 12, 2013 at 4:00 am CDT
Batch Nashville is one of a few place-based subscription box services recently entering the subcom wave. Batch Nashville is one of a few place-based subscription box services to enter the subcom wave recently.

 

People who love their cities will be able to more easily share (or receive) carefully curated pieces of home if a new trend in subcom, or subscription-based ecommerce, takes off: place-based subscription boxes. You may have heard of Birchbox, which sends subscribers monthly boxes of beauty product samples, or BarkBox, whose subscribers' pups get the monthly goodies. Hundreds of new subcom companies currently target nearly every interest. A few of the newest of the new fit well into the context of livability, because they start with a place - a city, state or region - to build the boxes, partnering with suppliers specific to that place to create each shipment. Here's what happens:

  • Local subscribers receive local products that help them discover more about independent businesses in their own communities.
  • Subscribers from other places can enjoy things that, when carefully curated, can carry powerful positive messages about the city from which they came.
  • Both groups can "gift a city" by buying subscriptions for friends.
  • All of this only further develops and enhances the very city brand on which these businesses piggyback.
In search of place-based subcom businesses, I found Cape Cod Gift Boxes; the Louisville-based Our Local Box, which delivers subscribers all-Kentucky products; and Art in a Box in California, which sends subscribers works by Bay Area artists. Then I learned we Nashvillians just got our own: Batch Nashville. Three Tennesseans, Sam Davidson, Stephen Moseley and Rob Williams founded the company, which shipped its first boxes to subscribers two weeks ago. They know Nashville well and wanted to make it easier to share. Davidson and Moseley grew up here, and Williams, a Memphis native, has been Davidson's neighbor for a decade. Davidson took a few minutes amid their busy launch to talk about the new business and how Music City's brand recognition and reputation is critical to its success.

"We started with the idea that we know how great Nashville is. We have great things that are made here locally by small businesses we already patronize, and are combining that with the convenience of discovery and delivery," Davidson says.  "As we've been going along, we've found that the extra player is the Nashville brand, which already resonates with a lot of people." So far, he said about 75 percent of subscribers are local folks wanting to discover local products, but added that the remaining 25 percent is "still a significant amount" of people who reside as far away as North Dakota, Seattle, and San Francisco and are interested in keeping up with what's coming out of Nashville. Why? They either grew up here and miss it or just want a taste of a city that's captured a lot of headlines lately. Davidson says the boxes will be themed and food-focused each month, with at least one nonfood item in each batch for now. They've already met with many local suppliers -- some they already knew, plus others who approached them as word spread about the new business. Working out details with suppliers takes time, as will determining when they'll have to cap subscriptions to keep supplier orders reasonable and also maintain the feeling of exclusivity people expect with curation services, he says. "We are a slow company in that we know it will take time to build up our subscriptions and develop relationships with suppliers," Davidson says. "We are not a quick and simple startup, and we are fine with that." Also important: Making sure the taste of Nashville they deliver is ample, not just samples, he added. "Some subscription businesses just send sample sizes, and something we knew right away is that while we may not be sending full sizes of everything, we want to eat least send out a meal's worth [for a food product], for example," Davidson says. "Who wants two bites of oatmeal? You want a bowl!" I've lived here more than a decade, and a whole bowl of Nashville still sounds great to me.

Batch Nashville Box Batch Nashville, a new subscription box company, delivered subscribers their first batch of local goodies two weeks ago.

 

 

Reader Comments Use a Facebook account to comment. Subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment.