Research Outline

Knitting Subscription Boxes


Support the creation of a monthly subscription box for knitters by providing an overview to understand not only what's out there, but why some are successful and some not.

The report should cover the customer mindset (what drives them to buy subscription boxes, what they are expecting and the science behind subscription boxes), what the average price is, and what the most popular subscription box for knitters might be.

Ideally, the research should include any scientific papers around the phenomenon of subscription boxes, as well as which subscription boxes (in general, not only knitting) have been popular and why.

Early Findings

The Psychology Behind Subscription Boxes

  • When it comes to subscription boxes, the psychological concept of "novelty seeking" partly drives the success of these items. Stimulation by things that are new leads your brain to work harder, but once things are familiar, that dies down. According to a study in 2006, this is due to the substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area (or simply SN/VTA) parts of the brain, which is partly responsible for feeling reward and driving pleasure-seeking. In the study, these areas were quickly stimulated when respondents were exposed to a set of images with random, positive objects added in every time. Repetitive content, or content with negative images added in, didn't stimulate those areas.
  • According to McKinsey, the three types of subscription boxes are Curation (where a company chooses personalized items every period, like BirchBox), Replenishment (where a company provides a steady supply of goods, like Dollar Shave Club), and Access (which grants the consumer an exclusive selection or discount, like NatureBox). The first is the most popular, which supports the finding above that novelty is a key driver. Even for the other two categories, novelty-seeking in terms of "personalized experiences" is considered one of the top reasons for using these boxes.
  • A similar reason supporting the need for novelty is the concept of reward uncertainty- as is present in gambling. According to researcher Dr. Charles Livingstone, “If someone is given a predictable set of rewards, they lose interest quickly. But if it is unpredictable, they tend to establish behavior that is hard to extinguish.”
  • Another reason that subscription boxes might be popular is due to the psychological concept of "paradox of choice". Basically, (counter-intuitively to many marketing strategies), consumers do not want more choice. Rather, the more choices they have, the more paralyzed they are as choices become more difficult and the LESS likely they are to buy. In this sense, subscription boxes with well-chosen items solve this paradox, as consumers are relieved of this pressure.

Top Subscription Boxes

  • The highest-valued subscription boxes (based on their latest valuation rounds) are FabFitFun, Honest, Ipsy, Rent the Runway, Harry's, Sun Basket, Soylent, and BarkBox.
  • In terms of the number of subscribers, box popularity differs between men and women. However, Amazon Subscribe and Save as well as Harry's takes the top two slots for both. The full list can be found here.
  • There is no ranking for knitting subscription boxes in terms of subscribers or valuation, but reviews mention KnitCrate, Darn Good Yarn, and Knit Picks as the most popular. As of 2019, at least 28 different yarn boxes were being offered. Other boxes focus on providing everything a subscriber needs to complete a single knitting project, like PostStitch and KnitWise.

The Subscription Box Shopper

  • These tend to be younger, relatively affluent, women in urban areas. They are 25 to 44 years old, with incomes $50,000-$100,000, and live in cities (primarily in the Northeastern US). 60% of subscribers are women; however, men are more likely to have three or more subscriptions.