To connect consumers with a selection of vintage clothing chosen with their preferences in mind, eCommerce innovators are putting a new spin on the subscription box model. Instead of curating the same selection of goods that every subscriber will receive, they are choosing unique vintage pieces and shipping them to subscribers on a regular basis.
Comma Vintage, for instance, offers shipments of vintage menswear, accessories and artifacts along with a personal note describing the contents. It also publishes a blog that goes into a bit more detail about the clothing itself and the company’s philosophy on apparel.
At sign up, consumers can choose a seasonal plan that is charged every three months or a full year (four shipment) plan that is charged every 12 months. Consumers can check out with PayPal or enter a credit card on the company’s eCommerce website. As soon as consumers subscribe, they receive an email link to a preference survey. After sending back the survey, their first box arrives in about two to three weeks. The feedback helps the company get an idea of the kinds of things a consumer is interested in, acquire inventory intelligently and better understand its customer base.
The boxes themselves are one-of-a-kind and every order is custom-made, which makes Comma Vintage unique among subscription boxes, Founder Mike Pontacoloni told PYMNTS in an interview. An average box might include, for example, a heavyweight vintage flannel shirt and a couple of graphic vintage T-shirts. On the other hand, they shipped out a naval-issue, Vietnam-era P-Coat earlier this month. The company ships a lot of denim, jackets and vintage flannel, and occasionally will deliver boots and dress shoes. And when a subscriber recently said he was obsessed with Yellowstone National Park, the company found a T-shirt that matched his interest and included it in the next shipment.
It’s a “wide array of possibilities,” Pontacoloni said, noting that their shipments run “the whole gamut of menswear.”
Sourcing and Stories
When Comma Vintage is sourcing products, it looks for items that will fit one of its customers’ shipments sometime in the near future. It then keeps the item in its warehouse and ships it out when it is appropriate. Because it buys for so many people at once, the company can make purchases at scale. Occasionally, it will come across someone who is closing down their store or has a lot of overstock, and will then buy a big chunk of their inventory at a price point that makes sense for the company and its customers. Comma’s main focus is to ensure that the customer is getting truly unique vintage items that are unlike anything they can get elsewhere.
Beyond the vintage clothing itself, the company also tells a story about the items found inside its boxes. “We include a written explanation of all the box’s contents,” Pontacoloni said. Comma’s target market might include people who want to give vintage clothing a try, but might not feel comfortable digging through the Salvation Army for a couple of hours and coming out empty-handed – or don’t have the time to go out and find it themselves.
Another market that Comma didn’t anticipate – but ended up becoming an important part of its business – was gifting. As Pontacoloni pointed out, the company allows consumers to give vintage clothing as a gift without needing knowledge of the industry beforehand.
According to a study from Accenture, as recently reported by The Wall Street Journal, almost half of the survey’s respondents to its yearly holiday shopping survey indicated they would consider gifting secondhand clothing. And more than half – or 56 percent – of respondents noted that they would welcome those types of gifts.
Now, with the help of the subscription model, innovative merchants like Comma Vintage are curating these types of items for consumers to give to a friend or to wear themselves to display their vintage style.