Every subscription retail service — or any retail company for that matter — needs a supply chain.
As seen last week in the earnings announcement for The RealReal, even if that supply chain comes from everyday consumers contributing consigned goods, it is an essential part of the equation. If it dries up or hits big obstacles, the whole operation can be thrown off.
It is a lesson the executives at Bespoke Post have learned well and incorporated into their business model.
That business model has made Bespoke Post one of the most agile subscription services on the market, and its supplier relationships — especially with its small businesses — have made it one of the most discoverable sites in the category. For men who are interested in the outdoors, unique knives and camping gear comes in a box every month. Cigars and tobacco fans will get brands not normally found at the local humidor. Grooming brands are also beyond the normal selection.
The philosophy gives Bespoke Post a unique flavor and variety even after members have been subscribers for a long period of time. In fact, as the pandemic took hold, the company made a $10 million commitment to small businesses and emerging brands, and it doubled that in late July. Since the launch of the program in March, Bespoke has connected with more than 700 new brands, placed orders from 500 of them and purchased $13 million worth of products.
“It's interesting because we've always worked with smaller brands,” CEO Steve Szaronos said. “That's sort of been a major point of what it is that we do. When [the pandemic] happened, we thought, ‘You know what? This is a really great opportunity for us to meet new brands and really to double down on our commitment to work with small brands.’ And we have a lot of brands that reached out to us looking for help with their wholesale business. At that point, we thought we could broaden our initiative a little bit and reach out to our existing vendors and see if there's a way we can help them out.”
The commitment to unique suppliers also dovetails with the brand’s promise to introduce its members and other consumers to something new every month, or even every day. That’s due to the subscription and open eCommerce model Bespoke has developed.
From a consumer perspective, it starts with a series of questions as other subscription services do, getting consumers to declare their interest in several categories. After that series of questions and a profile is created, the site suggests a box. For example, if a potential user declares interest in luggage, the first box is a green canvas weekend bag, again not from a major brand like Tumi or Samsonite.
After that, Bespoke separates itself from other subscription services. If users don’t like the box they’re presented with more options. They can change the box, change the category, opt to skip a month or opt to purchase another item outside of the subscription agreement. The boxes start at $45. The open eCommerce items range from simple grooming kits for $35 up to a pizza oven at $325.
“Those two things I think are really important to have together,” Szaronos said. “You can't do broad product variety and not give people that option to skip. Otherwise, they're going to be disappointed because they might already have the item, or they just might not want to do it. So, just because you're interested in the kitchen category doesn't necessarily mean you want a pasta maker. It means you're more likely to want a pasta maker, but we still want to show you that this is what we selected for you. And if you just are on a carb-free diet and don't want pasta, or you already have a pasta maker, then you can skip it and get something different or skip entirely. So, I think that those two things, the product variety, but also the skipping really make us unique as it relates to other subscription services.”
Bespoke started as a men’s brand founded by Szaronos and his friend, Rishi Prabhu. Szaronos was completing his master’s degree at Kellogg School of Management when he and Prabhu were accepted into the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator program and saw an opportunity in the eCommerce market for a subscription service for men.
The pair noticed that men were more conscious of and interested in self-improvement than ever. Yet there wasn’t a single one-stop shop out there for them to elevate their daily lives — a place that not only sold quality products at a fair price, but also taught new and better ways of living. And so, Bespoke Post was born in 2011. In the nine years since, the duo has built Bespoke Post to serve over half a million customers across the U.S. and Canada.
Recently it expanded beyond men’s products to include women or gender-neutral categories. Adding products and selection options will be where the company heads next.
“We've always been about giving our customer control over what I call the journey,” Szaronos said. “And so, a big piece of that is giving them ways that we can introduce even more control over that journey. We’re constantly doing field research where we're asking for people's opinions on future products that we're launching, and we're going to be doing more of that, for example, and integrating it more tightly with our overall merchandising process. We're also going to be giving other questions that we might ask people that help us refine the journey as we're starting to do additional products.”