Periodic parcels [Global Times]
(Global Times Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) By subscribing to a service like Qin'aide, women may never need to buy sanitary pads in the market again. Photo: Courtesy of Wu Fengming
On March 7, Yao Yao was surprised to get a "mysterious" gift pack in the mail, consisting of two packs of sanitary napkins and a box of brown sugar and ginger tea. The university senior in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, wondered who could have been so considerate.More than 650 kilometers away, Yue Wei was very happy to learn that his girlfriend had received the product he had ordered from Qin'aide, a newly launched Chinese website that provides a subscription service for daily necessities: sanitary napkins for women, socks and underwear for men."Over the next year, my girlfriend will receive the gift pack a week before her period," said 23-year-old Yue, a senior at Hunan University in Changsha, Hunan Province. "I think the subscription service model is terrific," he said. He remembers having to buy sanitary pads for Yao in the supermarket. "It was so embarrassing. Every time, I would quickly grab the brand she wanted and immediately walk away from the shelves." Yue spent 432 yuan ($70.30) for the 12 monthly deliveries. "Every month when she receives the package, she will think of me and my love." Qin'aide customers are offered four delivery options: monthly, quarterly, semi-annually and annually. According to Wu Fengming, 23, one of the website's three founders, about 3,000 members have registered on Qin'aide and more than 500 orders have been received since the website launched on March 3. In other countries, a thriving market has emerged for online businesses that offer scheduled delivery of toiletries and sundries - objects that require regular replacement - from toothbrushes and hair products to socks and fishing gear. In recent years, the localization of this new model in China has encountered a great deal of potential but also faces some stumbling blocks. Inspired by Blacksocks, a Swiss e-commerce website that provides socks by subscription, 31-year-old Chen Bole saw the potential for a Chinese version. In 2010, he founded nanrenwa.com, a website that sells men's socks. In 2013, the company had 1.31 million yuan in revenue and boasted about 55,000 customers, of which 45 percent are repeat buyers.Capitalizing on men's dislike of shopping and the fact that socks wear out quickly, Chen targets men aged 20 to 35. "They can have the socks sent twice a month, quarterly or semi-annually - and the socks vary in thickness for different seasons," said Chen. Le Tao, a loyal nanrenwa.com customer since 2010, told Metropolitan that he cares more about product quality than the regular delivery. "The subscription model is only a marketing gimmick," he said, adding that he had not tried it yet because he buys a pack every few months whenever he needs it. "The product is aimed at men who do not have time to buy socks, but I think most of their customers are not actually that lazy. We pay a great deal of attention to our lifestyle. That is why I choose this brand. I trust its quality," said Le. Chen admitted that the subscription part of his business is still growing. Eighty percent of his clientele opt to have their entire order delivered all at once; only 20 percent prefers to receive them parceled out according to a pre-determined schedule, he said. "Customers have to pay in advance for the whole year or for a period of time, and some may not trust us. Most Chinese customers also have the habit of buying sundries in bulk - and only when they run out." Other customers have expressed that it would be a hassle to deal with changing addresses or other delivery options if they pre-order a year of socks. "We have to cultivate this new habit of subscribing if we want to expand the market," Chen concluded.
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