Online shopping, declining retail traffic and a beleaguered middle class are hollowing out the retail sector.
A tissue-box-sized goodie-bag of shampoos, perfumes and beauty products shows up on Rachel Guarisco’s porch every month in rural Lexington, Virginia.
Guarisco, a 21-year-old senior at Washington & Lee University, has had cosmetics shipped straight to her home since her freshman year through Birchbox – a subscription-based third-party service that mails monthly assortments of mostly travel-sized toiletries across the country, with international operations in Canada, France, Spain, the U.K. and Belgium.
"Normally, you'd have to drive to Sephora, which is an hour away from us, spend $60 on a full-sized thing and find out you don't even like it," says Guarisco. "The advantage to this is having all the samples and having a bunch of different brands. You can find what you want without having to go anywhere."
There are plenty of other benefits: The cosmetically savvy get to sample new products. Beauty beginners avoid wandering through store aisles filled with confusing options. Birchbox’s business partners gain access to potential new clients. And Birchbox itself profits off of subscription fees.