This is part of uOpen’s 'Industry Insights' interview series - a valuable collection of informative and intelligent insights into how some of the UK's best-known and most-loved subscription box businesses came to be and got to where they are - all shared by the very people who made it happen...
Covering customer acquisition to fulfilment, this blog series offers a behind the scenes look at how the many moving parts of these complex, yet successful operations come together each month to satisfy the ever-growing demand of subscription box customers in the UK.
How did the idea for your subscription box come about?
I had seen stationery subscriptions in the USA but nothing existed over here at the time, so I wanted to roll out the idea in the UK and overcome that last minute dash to the shop for a birthday card!
What attracted you to the subscription box model?
POST uses our mainline product, so we don't have to rely on third parties to fill our box, and we get to curate a collection every month built around lots of different themes, which is excellent fun.
How did you validate your idea and test the market?
As POST uses our mainline stock, it was relatively simple and risk-free to test the market. It's been slow and steady growth so far, with some wonderful customers and great feedback.
How did you acquire your first customers?
We shared the idea on our social media platforms and offered customers a discount to sign themselves and a friend up initially.
Did you raise any seed or investor funding to help you grow?
How long have you been running now and what are your most successful achievements and milestones so far?
POST is an extension of our main stationery line; Katie Leamon. We launched that in 2010 and added POST to our range in 2015. I love it when we get customer feedback, it's always so positive, and our customers identify with POST and are very loyal customers. Our stationery lines have won two awards now, and we are stocked in world-renowned stores such as Anthropologie, Selfridges, Fortnum & Masons and Harrods.
With the rise of new boxes launching all the time, what do you see as your USP that sets you apart from your competitors?
Our content. As a small, family-run stationery business, we handprint the majority of our greetings cards, so the product itself is unique.
How does your business continue to find new and exciting products to keep your customers engaged and excited every month?
We always come up with a new theme, ideally something relevant to what's going on at the time in trends and seasons. We include incentives for friends, as well as loyalty gifts for long-standing customers. Our boxes always showcase our new product, quite often before it hits the shops.
Have there been any particularly pivotal moments so far that have required you to make changes to how you operate?
Not so far, but we are always adaptable and open to change.
How large is your team? What type of roles do they have?
We are a little team of ten and primarily made up of family members! My partner Ruairi runs the wholesale side of the business, and my mum and sister run our production! My uncle is our full-time printer, and we also have someone on sales and marketing, as well as some part-time people on production as we finish and dispatch everything in-house.
Across all operational areas of your business, what do you manage in-house and what do you outsource to external suppliers to support you with - and why is this?
Operationally we do everything in-house, from hand-printing the cards to all the packing and dispatch of the product. We also manage all the design, sales and marketing in-house, but we do use some UK-based printers who make our notebooks and gift wrap amongst some other products.
What types of challenges do you face with fulfilment, delivery and customer service?
There are always some issues with couriers, which I think are unavoidable. Things go missing, addresses are inputted incorrectly, but generally, we don't suffer too badly in this area as we do it all in-house other than the actual posting.
How do you see the subscription box industry is evolving and what do you believe are going to be your biggest challenges over the next 12 months?
I think competition is getting greater. We were the only stationery subscription box I could find in the UK 5 years ago, but they continue to get ever more popular. I think logistics online are also challenging - our software is having to improve continually to meet new requests from our customers.
What do you enjoy most about running your subscription box business?
It allows us to work directly with the end user, as well as showcasing our newest product as soon as it arrives.
What excites you about uOpen, and how do you see the marketplace featuring in your business' future?
It's a great location to find unique gifts for anyone, no matter how hard they are to buy for! We would love to see POST grow with uOpen over the next year, and if it does, we can arrange to offer more bespoke services.