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Why You Can Get (Nearly) Anything by Subscription Now

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Whether you're a dog lover, a make-up addict or a wine connoisseur, these days your passions can be delivered to your doorstep in the form of a monthly "subscription box."

For $10 a month, women can sample a variety of beauty and grooming products from Birchbox, and for $22.95 parents can get a monthly selection of toys sent right to their child's doorstep from Spark Box Toys. Subscribers to monthly perfume box Olfactif can enjoy three fragrances for $18, and the list goes on.

"The trend started in part as a sample program," says Amy Marks-McGee, founder of Trendincite, a trend forecasting consultancy. "Companies wanted to get their samples into consumers' hands, and consumers have always wanted to try before they buy."

With subscription boxes, companies can show off their products in small quantities, and consumers have an opportunity to sample without the commitment of a full purchase, Marks-McGee says. The boxes are affordable for both company and consumer because the products offered are not full-size -- it's a win-win all around.

"Many consumers can't afford an entire $40 bottle of serum or beauty cream," Marks-McGee says. "The beauty of the subscription box is that you can try several products for around $10 or $20, and if you don't like them, you don't have a huge inventory on your hands. It's economical because it's such a low commitment."

If customers really like a particular item, most subscription box retailers offer a chance to buy a full-size version via their website. For example, through Birchbox's online store, customers can shop full-sized products from more than 400 previously sampled brands including Lancome, Kiehl's, Laura Mercier, Benefit and L'Occitane, says Birchbox co-founder and co-CEO Katia Beauchamp.

"Before Birchbox, consumers were buying full-sized products before knowing whether or not they're actually the right fit for them," Beauchamp says. "By sampling products before purchasing, we help consumers buy the products and brands they know are the best fit for their needs, with confidence."

Another reason consumers love subscription box services is the idea of a personalized "curation," Marks-McGee says.

"It's the 'Hey, they choose it for you,' concept, and the fact that you know the research on the products has been done before you get them," she says. "When consumers receive their product, they may see a brand they've never heard of before, and suddenly they're in the know. Being a member of a service like Birchbox is like being part of the party."

For the past 23 years, The California Wine Club has been delighting subscribers with a box of two unique wines a month, and founder Bruce Boring says the excitement of knowing the wines he selects are so rare that they have not been sampled by his clients is what keeps customers coming back for more.
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