In an era when direct-to-consumer brands use inclusivity not only as a means of marketing but as part of their overall missions, Birchbox is finally catching up.
The 9-year-old company is rebranding its BirchboxMan brand to Birchbox Grooming, with the subscription boxes undergoing the same makeover beginning June 1. Additionally, the six Walgreens locations that sell Birchbox products will have dedicated bays for grooming products, with Birchbox available at five more Walgreens stores later this Summer. (Other brands coming to these Walgreens locations include Brickell, Journeymen, Oars + Alps and more.)
“For Birchbox, as a beauty/grooming retailer, this topic of inclusivity (particularly as it relates to gender, age, race and ethnicity) is top of mind because it is a focus for the industry as a whole, and something that beauty/grooming consumers are demanding across all types of players (retailers, brands, media),” said Amanda Tolleson, chief customer officer at Birchbox. “These types of changes are also about the internal company culture and values as much as the external audience (shaping change rather than just reacting to change). Inclusivity is a topic that our leadership and employees feel passionately about and we’re committed to continuing on a path to more inclusivity beyond what might be asked for from the beauty industry.”
Birchbox first started the transition from BirchboxMan to Birchbox Grooming by renaming the website’s top right navigation bar from “women’s” and “men’s” to “beauty” and “grooming” in April 2018. The move made sense, considering Tolleson said more than 35% of grooming sales are driven by the company’s beauty subscribers. In addition to BirchboxMan’s rebranding, the company worked with Out Magazine to curate the beauty and grooming box for June.
“When our co-founders were brainstorming names for the company nine years ago, one of their criteria from the beginning was that it needed to be something gender-neutral,” Tolleson said. “So ‘Birchbox’ was always designed to work for anyone, not just women, even though they launched with just beauty (and no immediate plans to add grooming).”
Birchbox originally launched BirchboxMan in 2012, as a subscription service for $20 a month; the company introduced a lower-priced box in 2017 for $10 a month. The box included grooming products, plus more lifestyle items for men such as Field Notes notebooks and Baggu bags. According to Mashable, Birchbox first tested BirchboxMan with a pilot in the 2012 holiday season; the 2,500 limited-edition boxes sold out in three days. That was back in Birchbox’s heyday. In 2016, Birchbox laid off staffers in two different months and the company received a much needed $15 million investment in an attempt to become profitable. In 2018, Viking Global Investors took a majority stake in the company, leaving the company’s former investors with nothing, reported Recode. Now, the company says it has more 2.5 million active customers.
It’s not too surprising that the brand’s moving in this direction. According to data from NPD, a research firm, the skin care category grew by 13% in 2018, and, in another report from Mintel, about 40% of adults 18-22 are interested in gender-netural beauty products. Men’s grooming is evolving into skin care and other categories; becoming a more inclusive brand is in line with trends.
Birchbox isn’t alone in this category; just take a look at Harry’s including the women’s shaving space with Flamingo or Dollar Shave Club branching out to cologne and deodorant. While these formerly male-grooming-dominant brands are expanding, other DTC companies like Glossier are rolling out new lines like Glossier Play, with men front and center in its marketing campaign.
Tolleson added that new DTC brands are learning to go gender-neutral from the start.
“Newer brands are optimizing for flexibility—they know that they might need to shift and be flexible so they don’t want their brand name to put them in a corner,” Tolleson said. “You want to build equity in a brand, but also allow it to flex with the business model.”