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Subscription Services: Gone Tomorrow, or Here to Stay?


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Product from Lewk

Courtesy Lewk

Recently, Minnesota has seen a wave of subscription services popping up, offering everything from dental hygiene products to jewelry. With all these new services on the marketplace, the question now is: Will they last? And how long will it take before the marketplace becomes saturated? So far, there are already signs of subscription club fatigue. Lewk, an "algorithmically curated" monthly menswear box that was launched earlier this year by Minneapolis retail vet Scott Kuhlman and business partner Drew Pearson, has quietly shuttered. Its showroom space at the Broadway building in Northeast is empty, its website is down, its last Facebook post was dated May 9, and posts on the business's Facebook page show a handful of disappointed customers. Product was supposed to start shipping in January, but services were reportedly delayed until April. (Emails to Kuhlman and Pearson have gone unanswered.)

[Related: 6 Minnesota Subscription Services]

It's somewhat surprising news coming from Kuhlman, one of the most recognizable names in the world of Minnesota retail. He is been best known for his namesake store, which specialized in fashion-forward men’s shirts featuring his own designs. At its peak, Kuhlman boasted 60 locations throughout the U.S., including four in the Twin Cities area, before shuttering in 2008.

Though it's seen a boom recently thanks to the influence of e-commerce, the subscription business model is nothing new—businesses have been selling monthly subscriptions for magazines, wine-of-the-month clubs, and CDs for years (remember Colombia House?). Start-ups come and go all the time, and subscription services aren't any different—and nine out of ten start-ups fail. Plus, there's the added challenge of standing out from an increasingly congested subscription service marketplace; there are already dozens of services available for things like nail polish, coffee, healthy food, pets, jewelry, and clothing. Only time will tell whether subscription services will continue to thrive or be a passing fad in an ever-fickle retail climate.

UPDATE (7/27/16): It appears that Lewk is merely on hiatus and not folding. The following email was apparently sent out to Lewk subscribers on July 7, 2016:

I hope this long overdue communication finds you well. First, let me start by apologizing for the delay in your shipment. Lewk is not out of business despite our lack of communication. In this infancy stage of our small startup, we have had unexpected issues in the area of supply chain and are working tirelessly towards resolution so that our product can be in your hands. I say this not as an excuse, but an honest update and plea for your business.
 
This supply chain issue has presented a difficult challenge. Initially we tried to see if it could be solved with existing personnel. Unfortunately we were not successful and we have now reached the conclusion that the only solution is to restructure our supply chain department. During this process, we chose to take our website down as we work through certain IT issues also related to supply chain. We are diligently working on this revamp; however, we wanted to take this opportunity to recognize that we have done a very poor job of communicating with you. This will change too.
 
We appreciate all of your patience and understanding to date - and are excited to send you premium product for a fraction of the price as soon as possible! Please consider staying with us as a member and we will provide updates moving forward until the first box ships. If you chose to continue as a member, we will not charge your account until after the 2nd box ships so your second month will be on us. If you'd prefer a refund, please let me know and we can make that happen too.

Sincerely,

Drew Pearson
CEO, Lewk Inc.

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