Fancy boxes and the self-gifting economy


In the pics above Coco Rocha for Fancy

Saturday late afternoon. Milan. Arco della Pace. A friend joining us for an aperitive. “Guys I do have an ethic problem. I need advises.” Yummy! Gossip time! We were ready for: “ I’ m the lover of my best friend’s boyfriend”. Nope. It was a cheating related fact, but not soap-opera style. She bought a scarf and a shirt. Colors matching perfectly. A gift for a friend. But she likes it so much that she wants to keep it. And she feels guilty. Guilty for self- gifting.

Why self- gifting? People are often buying for themselves the gift they didn’t receive.Funny enough: one of the first to find out this trend was an airlines company. They noticed sales booming right after the holiday season. People were buying flight for themselves. Evenself Valentine’s ones.

Not all self-gifts are equal. Psychologists (Mick 1991) identified 4 typologies, based on the motivation to buy:

  1. Romantic: unplanned, momentarily indulgences like spending for a beauty treatment. Or go for a walk in the park.
  2. Therapeutic: have an emotional value. The intention is to compensate loneliness or failure attributed to external causes. You give yourself the message of self-worth and that you are in control.
  3. Holiday self-gifts: the purpose is to reproduce times that are socially established occasions for gift-giving like Christmas or birthdays.
  4. Puritanic or rewarding: a validation of success, based on the belief that people get what they deserve and deserve what they get. Often are self- incentive toward goal achievements or stress relievers after completing a task.

A survey from the US National Retail Federation confirms that self-gifts are prominent in western societies: in 2013 people admitted they plan to spend on themselves $237. A jump of +27% compared to 5 years ago. Self-gifts are frequently associated to personally significant occasion or to birthdays and Christmas shopping. Marketers are not ignoring the phenomenon.

When you see promotions like discounting the second purchase, earning a discount buying the same item for several people, giving your discount to charity or messages as “reward yourself” “you deserve it”, “you are special”…well marketers are trying to monetize your self-gifting tendency. Often activating subtle tactics to relief you from the sense of guiltiness.

Is self-gifting tendency a matter of age? Partially. Gen Y seems to have the “one for you two for me’ mentality. This doesn’t necessary mean they are selfish. They grew up in a society strongly emphasizing self- caring and they expect to being rewarded at every turn (as well in workplace). In term of shopper behavior it translates into being inclined to make impulse purchases only to pamper themselves: self-gifting seems quite natural, without negative connotations.

My torn friend indeed is a Gen X. And as Urban Dictionary confirms Gen X is market savvy, still struggling against guilt trip.The fact I’m Gen Y could maybe explain why I subscribed quite enthusiastically to Fancy boxes. I discovered Fancy soon after its launch. My first reaction: genius and beautiful like Pinterest plus you can buy. You can make friends, browse different categories, instead of “pin it”, you fancy items. You can buy almost anything…or let Fancy send you a “gift”. How? You can subscribe to Fancy boxes.

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The subscription box trend kicked off in 2010 in US with the launch of Birchbox – a monthly beauty sample subscription service. For just 10$ you receive each month 4-5 new beauty samples. Just one year later, in 2012, the subscription box market started to really take off: new boxes were launched almost every week. The trend just keeps picking up. You can find a box catering for whatever you could need. Unluckily the box market seems to be flourishing mainly in US and few companies are shipping – for a still quite high cost- to Europe.

I subscribed to Fancy boxes for 2 main reasons: I fancy’d many items – so I hope to get some of those- and they ship to Europe. Food, woman, man, kids, home. You can as well get celebrity-curated boxes: Nicky Hilton, Snoop Dog, Coco Rocha. For $39/month (+ shipping cost up to 20$) you will receive a box with the the most fancy’d goods sourced from your favorite categories. The value of the goods received is worth at least 80$ or more.

I admit it: Fancy boxes were my monthly self-gift. And I’m not alone. There are several boxes addicted out there, blogging about their obsession.

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It’s a self-indulgence that looks like an interpersonal gift.Ritual included. It’swrapped in a colorful box, you receive it at home/office – the DHL guy GIVES it to you- and you don’t know upfront what’s inside. Suspense, opening time,surprise, joy or disappointment. A self-gift keeping the characteristics of a gift given by someone else. If you don’t like it you can even send it back. No guilt grip. You get as well cards for each item plus an inspirational quote card– the mood of the month. You feel treated well.

I subscribed to May and June boxes. Woman category. The boxes are pretty colorful: opening them gave me the “feel good” shot. In my May self-gifted Fancy box I found:



Tunz stereo set by Tylt useful and nice.
Nylon Pack Cloth Gym Bag by American Apparel 19$ a bit small, but water resistant. It could be used as folded inside a bigger gym bag .
GymSelfie Tank 28$ a tshirt ideal for a run listening Let me take a selfie by The Chainsmoker. Fancy you are raising my expectations, in the next box I do expect a drone since the new trend is the dronie a selfie by drone!!!
Miir bottle insulated 30$ I love it. Miir is one of the few company with a clear mission merging iconic and functional design to advocacy for preserving wilderness. Buying the bottle you help to provide drinkable water in developing countries. You get a bracelet, a code and you can track your impact.
Total Retail value 116.99

In my June self-gifted Fancy box I found:

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Black sound waves Bluetooth speaker Urban beatz 39.99$ Elegantly shaped, reviews report great sound quality.
I’m busy towe95$ red, big, funny. Ideal for the beach.
King cube tray by Tovolo 8$ I always wanted the giant ice cube maker!!!
Blue/white striped beach bag ( price not found) ever-green beach bag.
Total Retail value: more than 142.99

The items I found in the Fancy boxes were for sure useful. And trendy.The value I got is much higher compared to what I paid. But I cancelled my subscription.

Why? Even if receiving a box with gifts is really fulfilling and almost made my day…I do prefer to select by myself my self-gifts. Shipping cost for Europe is still high and it takes at least 2 weeks to the box to arrive, so when I receive it spoilers have already blogged!

While waiting for the box market booming as well in Europe, I decided to substitute my Fancy monthly box with a 40 euro monthly fee officially dedicated to self-gifts.

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