Wine, cacti, and candles to your door: Subscriptions are the new norm

(L-R)  Andrew Macey, Kim Mouncer and Matthew Harrowven.

(L-R) Andrew Macey, Kim Mouncer and Matthew Harrowven. - Credit: Archant/Kim Mouncer

Films. Perfume. Shaving foam. Music. 

The subscription model - which gained popularity thanks to the likes of Netflix and Spotify - has gathered pace in lockdown with smaller, independent businesses beginning to offer the service. 

Not only does it work for consumers who can often get better deals on a regular basis, but it also provides the firms with much-needed security around cashflow. 

Launching a subscription service was always a top priority for Kim Mouncer, founder of Lyng's Romeo and Succulent plant shop. 

Having launched three years ago Ms Mouncer spent a year building up her client base before launching the subscription service. 

Kim Mouncer of Romeo and Succulent 

Kim Mouncer of Romeo and Succulent - Credit: Kim Mouncer

Ms Mouncer sources rare cacti and succulents for her subscribers, selling them only via subscription and not via general sale through her website. 

She said: "I try to mix it up and put a lot of time into finding plants which you wouldn't just find in a normal plant shop. Customers also get a better deal because it comes with a pot and a care guide so it makes sense for them to subscribe."

The Romeo and Succulent subscription comes with a care guide, plant and pot

The Romeo and Succulent subscription comes with a care guide, plant and pot - Credit: Romeo and Succulent

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Her subscriptions cost £20 a month via her website.

"Often if they do a three-month subscription I'll give them a voucher for if they come back.

"I would say around half of the subscriptions are gifts. We have a lot of people buying for their wives - and that ranges from people who have a lot of plants and want something new and people who have never had a plant but buy it because they need the guide for watering, placement and so on.

Romeo and Succulent products

Romeo and Succulent products - Credit: Romeo and Succulent

"It works for customers because they get a range but it also gives me some certainty which has been really important for small businesses during a pandemic. 

"Around the time we send all the subscriptions out it can be a lot of work because I'm the only one working in the business - that might have to change soon." 

She was echoed by Andrew Macey, owner of Norfolk Aromas, which is launching a subscription service next week. 

He said: "I never considered a subscription service because I suppose I didn't bank on people liking my products that much, when in fact it was customers who asked me to launch a subscription service. 

"At first for a small business it might not be feasible because a big part of it is providing a diverse range. Customers don't want to keep getting the same thing every month - they want a surprise but also the convenience of not having to reorder. 

Andrew Macey of Norfolk Aromas

Sweet smell of success: Andrew Macey and his products at Norfolk Aromas. - Credit: Denise Bradley

"I know that our food and drink scents are our most popular so it takes a while to source them of a level of quality which I would want to send out - I can imagine that's the same for other small businesses. 

"When you get it right though it is so valuable. I think you have to do something really wrong for people to unsubscribe - at least that's how I as a subscriber feel myself. 

"It provides us with some certainty of cash flow and gives small business owners the confidence to be able to expand and try new things."

Matthew Harrowven, owner of sustainable wine delivery service Tap and Tipple, said his open-ended return custom model had been a hit with the public from launch. 

He said: "Our subscription idea is very laid back. We don't want to tie people into contracts and we want to give people the option to be flexible. So people can try us out, if they like it we can set them up with a regular order, or we can pause it if they're away. 

"With fast-moving products like wine it's so helpful for us to have a customer base providing regular cashflow. It means we know how much stock to buy in that won't be wasted as well as advancing into more premium products."

Matthew Harrowven from Tap and Tipple, delivers wine to your front door, like a milkman. Picture: El

Matthew Harrowven from Tap and Tipple, delivers wine to your front door, like a milkman. Picture: Ella Wilkinson - Credit: Archant

During the first lockdown Mr Harrowven saw demand spike by about 300pc and has subsequently retained at least half of that new client base.