Give the gift that keeps on giving

This photo provided by Steve Spangler Science shows the Spangler Science Club gift subscription.

Suffering from a pre-holiday "what to give" headache? The prescription may be a subscription.

Subscription gifts, one of the hottest retail trends, literally keep on giving: New installments arrive over the course of weeks or months.

While the idea isn't new (remember those record-of-the-month clubs?), the breadth and variety of what you can subscribe to is. Everything from Anna Sui makeup to zebra masks for kids. Freshly-pressed records, juices and high-fashion togs. Mystery boxes for people and for pets.

If your loved one is more into Content than Stuff, consider ordering a subscription for e-books, movie passes, or classes in art, cooking or exercise.

"They're a great improvement on the gift card," says Neale Martin, a consumer expert and CEO at Sublime Behavior Marketing in Marietta, Georgia; like gift cards, subscription gifts are easy to buy, especially last-minute, at a variety of prices, but they also can be highly customized.


"The idea of giving a present that will be bringing smiles for months creates a very powerful reinforcement," he said.

Liz Cadman founded a website, , devoted to boxes containing a mix of items each month. That improves the odds that your recipients will like what you gave them, she says: "Boxes give you variety. Most include five-plus items, so you know someone's going to like at least a few of them."

Many local stores will work with customers to put together subscription-gift options. For ideas, here are some online offerings:


Decoterie sends a curated box of limited-edition home accessories and textiles — coasters, thank-you notes and a personalized ceramic bowl were among items in this summer's box. (

Burke Decor's subscriptions include a mix of home, spa and travel accessories. (

Set your style parameters at Linen Crate and get a monthly box of tablecloths, placemats, towels or rugs, as well as coordinating items like platters and spa accessories. (

The edible subscription universe is vast and varied. Chocolate of the Month, Bacon of the Month, Spice to Meet You, Candy Japan and Original Craft Beer Club are all services that might appeal to foodies. Pressed Juicery sends an array of green, root, citrus and fruit juices.



There are all kinds of beauty, fashion and wellness subscriptions, many of which ask you to describe your personal style and makeup parameters; the companies take it from there.

Birchbox , a subscription pioneer, offers monthly boxes of sample sizes and one full-size product. (

From Stitch Fix , five new wardrobe items, chosen by a stylist, appear at the door. Send an e-gift card that your recipients can redeem; they select delivery dates, keep what they want and return the rest in the prepaid mailing bag. (

At Quarterly , prominent people like Nina Garcia, creative director of Elle Décor, and science icon Bill Nye create their own boxes and include a personal note outlining why they chose what they did. Nye's boxes have included bow ties and cardboard DNA models. (

Cadman recommends Popsugar Must Have as a subscription gift for women. "It's $40 a month, and they send a variety of beauty, fashion, home, food and fitness items," she says. October's box included a satin pillowcase and a gift card for monogrammed jewelry. (


With Dollar Shave , you choose the style of blade and razor you want and refills arrive on the schedule you determine. (


Or try Bespoke Post , Cadman says: "It's $45 a month and they deliver high-quality items (think ties, barware, grooming kits, shoes, etc.). Each month they announce new box options, and your giftee gets to pick which one they want."(

At Chicago-based Trunk Club , a stylist gathers a clothing selection which you preview and approve online. When the items arrive in a box, you can nix them if they don't fit or don't look right. (

Socks are sometimes called a lame gift, but what about a whole year's worth of cool ones? Soul Socks , which sends a house-designed pair of Peruvian cotton socks each month, helps support job-training programs for American high schoolers. (


Arts and crafts are a fun subscription gift for children; each month brings a new box of creative possibilities. Check out Green Kid Crafts and Art in a Box . (;

Tinker Crate offers puzzles and engineering challenges for 9- to 12-year-olds. (

Spangler Science Club , aimed at kindergartners through sixth graders, sends enough stuff each month for over a dozen science experiments. (

My Geek Box centers around a theme — "sidekicks" and "justice" were recent ones — with geek gear, collectibles and T-shirts. (


GiftLit sends monthly book boxes, while Brickbox's niche is — you guessed it — all things Lego. (; )

Expose your budding 3- to 12-year-old traveler to new places with Little Passports . Young armchair globetrotters get started with a little suitcase and a map. Then comes a monthly array of activity kits, gadgets, stickers and souvenirs that explore sciences and world cultures. (

Citrus Lane sends boxes skewed to babies, toddlers or preschoolers, full of quality toys, games and snacks. (


Barkbox lets pets in on the subscription-gift game with dog and cat toys and treats arriving monthly. (

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