Perk up your post with a monthly subscription box
From pets to beauty and overseas treats, there’s a range of products to choose from
Bills, undelivered notices, junk circulars, pizza menus: let’s face it, the stuff on the doormat rarely amounts to anything joyous. Quite the opposite, in fact.
A growing number of companies appear to have spotted this too, and have created monthly pick-me-ups that arrive straight to a person’s door, for the right price.
These days, there are subscription boxes for just about anything, from specialty food and sanitary products to fitness apparel and socks. Many of them can be bought month-to-month, too, without too much commitment. Here’s a rundown of some of the best.
Best for dog lovers
“Never set foot in a pet shop again!” – thus reads the strapline from BusterBox, a subscription box service launched by three childhood friends from Dublin (Gary Redmond, Liam Brennan and Paul Carrick). TV fans might have spotted the product on Season 8 of Dragons’ Den, where it was offered investment by two Dragons. Their box of treats for dogs have been a huge success at home, and now BusterBox delivers to thousands of pet owners in the UK. The trio are in the process of adding on a dog food subscription. You just tell them how small or big your pet is, and the will create a box with the right kind of premium toys, chews and treats (one box, for instance, has a chew rope, rubber bone, snacks from Merrick, Crazy Dog edible training rewards, a caterpillar toy, a Tuffy’s felt squid toy, shiny coat serum, and clean-up bags. A medium box costs around €30 a month with free shipping.
Best for relatives abroad
Direct from Dingle, MyIrelandBox promises to fully encapsulate the Irish culture and tradition. The box runs a fairly wide gamut, from natural beauty products, jewellery, Irish music, accessories and homewares. Its founder, solicitor Katharine Keane, creates a special theme for her monthly boxes: August’s offering, for instance, is themed around an Old Irish Farm, while in February’s box, subscribers received a Claddagh Glitter Print by Louise McGinty, turf peat incense from the Gifted Hand, a printout of the lyrics to Dónal Óg, a 2018 diary from Real Ireland picture press, and gift postcards from Kelly Cards. As they deliver mainly to the US, Canada and Australia, this is a great gift or a friend or family who misses the auld sod. Each box costs $45 (€38) a month, plus $10.50 (€9) shipping.
Best for fiction fans
The point of Reading In Heels’ subscription box is to enhance the typical reading experience with goodies like chocolate, teas and beauty/lifestyle treats, as well as taking the guesswork out of finding new books to read. Described by its co-founder Alice Revel as “a subscription service for intelligent, stylish, modern women”, the RIH book titles are often smart, award-winning contemporary fiction reads (Jami Attenberg, Elizabeth Day and Kamila Shamsie are among the authors recently featured). There was evidently a yawning gap in the market: Reading in Heels sold out of their first ever box, which combined Nell Zink’s Nictoine with Halo raw chocolate, Pukka women’s tea, a Su-Man clay face mask and Legology leg tint - without any marketing push. A monthly subscription costs £12.40 (€14), plus £2.40 (€2.70) postage, with discounts for six-month or yearlong subscriptions.
Best for a stress-free period
It’s about time someone offered a different approach to the feminine care market, and that someone happens to be 28-year-old Laois native Maryrose Simpson. She founded the Irish company MyLadyBug.ie, Ireland’s first period subscription box, and Europe’s first natural cotton subscription service. “We all order food, taxis, even personal assistants using the web and mobile applications,” says Simpson. “But why not even for the most intimate of products? Why not tampons and towels? Every month, you will receive a box exclusively tailored for you. No matter if you prefer tampons or pads (or both!) you can pick n’ mix brands of your choice. We also include some comforting sweets and treats just when you need them the most.” When it comes to the treats, think Galaxy chocolate and herbal tea – enough to make periods a bit easier to deal with. Monthly subscriptions start at €9.99 (Comfort Care Packages) and €11.99 (Cotton Care Packages) and discounted pre-pay plans for three-, six- and 12- month subscriptions. Postage is free within Ireland.
Best for coffee connoisseurs
Does the idea of running low on coffee beans of a morning leave you feeling anxious? Dublin coffee roasters 3FE aim to take the pain out of keeping on top of your roasted coffee inventory. The Momentum Subscription, from €9 per delivery (plus free postage) delivers a 250g bag of wholebean coffee on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis and is reportedly a popular option with small offices, while the Tasting Subscription, from €70 (and available in a six-month or one-year plan) means that you can sample a different single origin coffee each month, with brewing tips, origin stories and tasting notes from the 3fe team included. If you’re deadly serious about your daily cup of Joe, Aeropress and grinding products are also on sale via the website.
Best for fans of obscure foreign snacks
Anyone who has enjoyed a stint living in the US, Canada or mainland Europe often comes home waxing rhapsodical about the foods and snacks that are impossible to buy here (or rather, are possible to buy at specialist stores, but at an extortionate rate). Ex-Pack offers subscribers five options – Canada, France, Serbia, Germany and the UK – and each box comes laden with the foodie faves that are hard to find beyond that particular country. Other home comforts, from shower gels and soaps, also make up the care package. In the Canada box, for instance, you’ll find Old Dutch crisps, Butter Tarts, Poutine mix, VH Sauces, Hickory Sticks and Kraft dinners. A decent-sized box of about a dozen treats will cost $35 (€30), with shipping to Ireland costing around $10 (€8.50).
Best for crafty kids
Designed for various age groups from babies to teens aged 16 and up, the Doodle crate offers a monthly DIY project, using kid-friendly materials, so that budding creatives can learn all about crafting materials and techniques. Their modus operandi is teaching kids about STEAM (science, technology, engineering art and maths). This month’s crate, for instance, allows subscribers to customise and build a wooden clock (materials and tutorial included). Among the other creative projects on offer in previous months are sets of layer votive candles, or a Sumi-E ink wash painting set. A monthly subscription can cost $19.95 (€17.15) a month, while postage is $6.95 (€6).
Best for beauty junkies
Arguably the big daddy of all the beauty boxes on offer out there, Birchbox mail out a cluster of full-sized and travel sized beauty and make-up products, from big skincare and cosmetic brands. The care packages are always themed or a collaboration designers or fashion giants including Vogue Magazine, Matthew Williamson and Oliver Bonas. Wedding Beauty boxes, Ingredient Conscious boxes or Korean Beauty boxes are also for sale. July’s Birchboxes, for instance, comprised products from Manna Kadar bronzer, What’s In It For Me scrub, Balance Me serum, Lumene illuminator, Klorane make-up remover, ad BeautyPro eye masks. They’re clearly doing something right – they’ve racked up more than a million customers worldwide. Birchbox subscriptions start at €15.12 per month, including postage.
Best for stylish blokes
Founded in 2014 in Detroit Michigan, Gentleman’s Box doesn’t so much offer nice things as a (it says here) way of life. Boxes start at $25 (€21.40) per month, with shipping to Ireland clocking in at $8 (€6.85). A Tier 1 box ($30, or €25.60) comes with a tie or bow tie, socks, and pocket square. The premium box ($100 or €85.65 per quarter), meanwhile, has 4-6 premium accessories in accordance with each season, from watches and shades to ties and fragrances.
Best for home fragrance fans
Scent By Mail (Scentbymail.co.uk)
If you regularly stock up on scented candles, diffusers and other home fragrances, you could do worse than giving this site a go. The Scent By Mail subscriptions come in three tiers: there’s a Scent Explorer box (three products work out at £15 or €16.90 a month) and Scent Enthusiast box (£20 or €22.50 a month for a 5-piece box) to a Scent Extraordinaire (£25 or €28.15 a month for 7 selected candles or fragrance products). There are almost 40 fragrance brands in partnership with Scent By Mail, including Baylis & Harding, Burt’s Bees, Marmalade London, St. Eval and the Copenhagen Candle Company. Postage is £4.95 (€5.60) per month to Ireland, and they offer a free starter kit to new subscribers – those who plump for the 7-piece monthly subscription, for instance, receive a Cello White Melt burner, Wax Lyrical Votive holder, and Prices tealights.