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Sales trend: monthly low cost sample mailer subscriptions

A sales trend is being proven fortuitous across America as subscription commerce is expanding and consumers are getting boxes of products, not knowing what’s coming, but excited to try new products.




Sales trend to brush up on

In recent years, a sales trend has taken root in America with monthly low cost sample mailers consisting of small amounts of products pulled together in a box, chosen by the retailer. It’s called subscription commerce, but think of it as consumers sending themselves or others a care package – it’s a surprise, it’s novel, and it’s not expensive.

Retailers are looking around their inventory considering whether or not they can combine smaller entities together, hire some staff, and depending on the size of the operation, be up and running with a new revenue stream, and a new way to get consumers to try new products.

Additionally, product manufacturers from big (dog treat manufacturer) to small (one-gal knitting web store) can expand their offering and have something novel to promote online and in stores.

From a branding perspective, it’s also working because retailers are getting valuable consumer information and now have more reasons to reach out and promote other products and services to them, rather than getting lost in the sea of tweets.

Below are four examples of the sales trend to brush up on and get inspired by:

1. Birchbox $10/mo

arguably started the modern version of the trend by sending out high quality beauty product samples in a bundle, allowing fashionistas and non-fashionistas alike to not only try the latest and greatest products, but get familiar with brands without breaking the wallet (and shipping is included in the monthly price).

Fashion bloggers went gaga over Birchbox when they launched, and it is the delight of their buyers. Shoppers fill out a survey about themselves, and what they send out matches their interests, along with a list of a description of what was sent (and the price of the full-sized product, although some products are sent in full size like lip balm). Birchbox offered a limited time “home” edition, sending candles, cocktail napkins and the like, and has options for men, making it a popular gift.

2. BarkBox $18/mo

Dog owners (or someone giving a gift to dog owners) chooses the dog’s size, and pick a plan (monthly, 3-month, or 6-month), and like Birchbox, shipping is included in the price which starts at $18 per month for a BarkBox subscription. The boxes ship out on the 15th of every month, and 10 percent of all proceeds go to an animal rescue group.

The company explains, “Each month your dog will receive a box full of 4-6 goodies to enjoy. Each box will include a different mix of goodies like bones, bully sticks, toys, treats, gadgets, shampoos, hygiene products, food samples, and more. There’s plenty in each box to discover what your dog really loves and wants more of in the future.”

3. Graze $5/mo

is currently by private invitation only, so buyers can sign up for the waiting list, or ask a current member for an invitation if they have extras. Newest to the scene, their focus is on healthy snacks like organic dried fruits and nuts. Buyers select their preference and rate whether they “like, love, or would like to try” each food which is combined to create their box which comes every second week for $5.00 per box. The subscription is not a long-term contract and can be canceled any time with a one week notice. Graze ships through the USPS and fits inside of your mailbox, so no signature is necessary.

4. $7/mo

Like Graze, is in private beta, so users request to get an invitation. is subscription service developed by Walmart, and is focused on getting subscribers to try new food, often from their organic lines, starting at $7.00 per month for themed boxes. What sets this service apart from the others is that they have set up an online community where subscribers can review the products they’ve tried from the boxes each month, “earning points” to redeem on other products. If a member liked something they were sent, they can order a full-sized version of it from the website.

Why this sales trend is expanding

Subscription commerce is a fun sales trend that will most certainly expand in 2013, as it is low cost for the consumer, and taps into an important trend that runs parallel to social media: trying new things. So many consumers today flock to their favorite social network to ask for suggestions on what to eat for dinner, what show to see, what nail polish to use, which outfit to buy, and so forth, making many decisions based on input from friends and even strangers, which has caused countless people to expand their horizons. This sales trend is a simple extension of that behavior, but removes the effort consumers must put forth, and simply sends them the latest and greatest to try out.

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  1. Deidre Woollard

    February 17, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    The Fancy also does curated boxes including one curated by Ashton Kutcher and another curated by Pink.

  2. Vicki Moore

    February 17, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    I like that the price points are low. I’ve thought about all sorts of different programs but many of them are just too expensive.

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Business News

Unify your remote team with these important conversations

(BUSINESS NEWS) More than a happy hour, consider having these poignant conversations to bring your remote team together like never before.



Woman working in office with remote team

Cultivating a team dynamic is difficult enough without everyone’s Zoom feed freezing halfway through “happy” hour. You may not be able to bond over margaritas these days, but there are a few conversations you can have to make your team feel more supported—and more comfortable with communicating.

According to Forbes, the first conversation to have pertains to individual productivity. Ask your employees, quite simply, what their productivity indicators are. Since you can’t rely on popping into the office to see who is working on a project and who is beating their Snake score, knowing how your employees quantify productivity is the next-best thing. This may lead to a conversation about what you want to see in return, which is always helpful for your employees to know.

Another thing to discuss with your employees regards communication. Determining which avenues of communication are appropriate, which ones should be reserved for emergencies, and which ones are completely off the table is key. For example, you might find that most employees are comfortable texting each other while you prefer Slack or email updates. Setting that boundary ahead of time and making it “office” policy will help prevent strain down the road.

Finally, checking in with your employees about their expectations is also important. If you can discuss the sticky issue of who deals with what, whose job responsibilities overlap, and what each person is predominantly responsible for, you’ll negate a lot of stress later. Knowing exactly which of your employees specialize in specific areas is good for you, and it’s good for the team as a whole.

With these 3 discussions out of the way, you can turn your focus to more nebulous concepts, the first of which pertains to hiring. Loop your employees in and ask them how they would hire new talent during this time; what aspects would they look for, and how would they discern between candidates without being able to meet in-person? It may seem like a trivial conversation, but having it will serve to unify further your team—so it’s worth your time.

The last crucial conversation, per Forbes, is simple: Ask your employees what they would prioritize if they became CEOs tomorrow. There’s a lot of latitude for goofy responses here, but you’ll hear some really valuable—and potentially gut-wrenching—feedback you wouldn’t usually receive. It never hurts to know what your staff prioritize as idealists.

Unifying your staff can be difficult, but if you start with these conversations, you’ll be well on your way to a strong team during these trying times.

This story was first published in November 2020.

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Business News

How to apply to be on a Board of Directors

(BUSINESS NEWS) What do you need to think about and explore if you want to apply for a Board of Directors? Here’s a quick rundown of what, why, and when.



board of directors

What does a Board of Directors do? Investopedia explains “A board of directors (B of D) is an elected group of individuals that represent shareholders. The board is a governing body that typically meets at regular intervals to set policies for corporate management and oversight. Every public company must have a board of directors. Some private and nonprofit organizations also have a board of directors.”

It is time to have a diverse representation of thoughts, values and insights from intelligently minded people that can give you the intel you need to move forward – as they don’t have quite the same vested interests as you.

We have become the nation that works like a machine. Day in and day out we are consumed by our work (and have easy access to it with our smartphones). We do volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities, but it’s possible that many of us have never understood or considered joining a Board of Directors. There’s a new wave of Gen Xers and Millennials that have plenty of years of life and work experience + insights that this might be the time to resurrect (or invigorate) interest.

Harvard Business Review shared a great article about identifying the FIVE key areas you would want to consider growing your knowledge if you want to join a board:

1. Financial – You need to be able to speak in numbers.
2. Strategic – You want to be able to speak to how to be strategic even if you know the numbers.
3. Relational – This is where communication is key – understanding what you want to share with others and what they are sharing with you. This is very different than being on the Operational side of things.
4. Role – You must be able to be clear and add value in your time allotted – and know where you especially add value from your skills, experiences and strengths.
5. Cultural – You must contribute the feeling that Executives can come forward to seek advice even if things aren’t going well and create that culture of collaboration.

As Charlotte Valeur, a Danish-born former investment banker who has chaired three international companies and now leads the UK’s Institute of Directors, says, “We need to help new participants from under-represented groups to develop the confidence of working on boards and to come to know that” – while boardroom capital does take effort to build – “this is not rocket science.

NOW! The time is now for all of us to get involved in helping to create a brighter future for organizations and businesses that we care about (including if they are our own business – you may want to create a Board of Directors).

The Harvard Business Review gave great explanations of the need to diversify those that have been on the Boards to continue to strive to better represent our population as a whole. Are you ready to take on this challenge? We need you.

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Business News

Age discrimination lawsuits are coming due to the pandemic – don’t add to the mess

(BUSINESS NEWS) Age discrimination is spreading despite intentions to help, and employers need to know how to proceed in this unprecedented era.



Ageism void

Before the pandemic, age discrimination was prevalent in workplaces. The EEOC reports that in 2018, about 6 out of 10 workers aged 45 years and older say they experience discrimination on the job.

A 2015 survey found that 75% of older workers found age an obstacle in job hunting. COVID-19 made the situation much worse.

Not only do older workers deal with discrimination, but they are at a higher risk of developing serious complications from the virus. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, older workers were hit the hardest by job loss during the pandemic, which is unusual during a recession. As offices reopen, employers need to be careful to avoid age discrimination in rehiring.

Lawyers expect age discrimination lawsuits to increase.

Last September, Harris Meyer published an article in the ABA Journal that predicted a “flood of age discrimination lawsuits” from the pandemic. Employers who have good intentions by keeping older employees out of the workplace to protect their health are still guilty of age discrimination.

What can employers do to avoid age discrimination?

It may be fine line between making sure you don’t discriminate based on age while offering ADA accommodations. The first thing employers should do is to know what laws apply based on their location. Some states exempt employees over 65 from returning to the workplace out of safety fears, meaning that those employees can still get unemployment. Other states are cutting benefits if employees don’t return to work, regardless of age.

There are some jurisdictions that have passed legislation about which workers have the right to be recalled. Next, review your own policies and agreements with laid off and terminated employees. You may want to consult legal counsel to make sure you’re covering your bases.

As you rehire, whether you’re bringing back former employees or hiring new team members, do not make hiring decisions based on age. Keep good documentation about your decisions to terminate certain employees. If you are citing poor performance, make sure to have a record of that. Don’t terminate older employees who have bigger salaries just because of lower sales. Monitor your words (and that of your hiring team) to avoid bias in hiring and firing.

Provide accommodations or not?

According to the SHRM, “Workers age 40 and older are protected from bias by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; however, that law doesn’t require employers to make accommodations for safety concerns.”

Still, employers can provide flexibility for workers, but it largely depends on the type of job. Reaching an accommodation for an office worker will be much easier than accommodating a sanitation worker.

Employers should assume that workers aged 40 and older can return to work. When the need for help is raised by the employee, enter negotiations for accommodations. Don’t initiate the conversation, and absolutely avoid any references to age.

Know that the environment may change as the pandemic continues to affect workers.

Be thoughtful about your hiring practices moving forward to avoid costly litigation from age discrimination.

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