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Germany Gets Wired for Sampling

No fewer than five beauty sampling services have sprung up this spring, modeled on successful U.S. startup Birchbox.

BooBox selections.

Berlin — The chic’s in the mail in Germany. No fewer than five beauty sampling services have sprung up this spring, modeled on successful U.S. startup Birchbox, which launched its own mailbox beauty offering in September with $1.4 million in venture capital money and now has thousands of subscribers.

This story first appeared in the June 15, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Start-up GlossyBox, new in March, has Kiehl’s, Elizabeth Arden, Laura Mercier, Penhaligon’s, OPI and Annick Goutal among its offerings. Its online beauty magazine, BooBox, which came out in April, lists Uslu Airlines nail polish, Philip B hair care products, Austrian skin brand Tiroler Nussöl, and Rouge Bunny Rouge makeup as sample selections. There’s also Kosmetik.de, and then Odorbox, which has already been taken over by BooBox.

Though the names may vary, the offering is pretty much the same — a selection of four or five cosmetics samples swathed in tissue paper and bound with ribbon, sent by post to Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The price is 10 euros a month, or $14.25 at current exchange, though some offer a discount for yearly subscribers. As per the Birchbox model, customers can sign on and exchange product reviews and beauty tips through various social media platforms, earn points towards free sample boxes by filling out questionnaires, and click through to purchase full-size products at selected e-tailers. Customer feedback and evaluations are passed on to participating brands.

The newest addition to the field has a few differences. It comes from perfumery giant Douglas, which made its first delivery in May of the Douglas-Box-of-Beauty, containing a full-size Anny nail polish, and “luxury-size” samples of Calvin Klein’s CK One, Shiseido skin cream, and HerCut styling balm, as well as a 10-percent off coupon for a later purchase of any of the products.

The first edition of 5,000 sold out in advance the week it was launched — well before the planned delivery date of May 20. “The cosmetics branch is very innovative and we love to introduce our customers to product innovations,” said Douglas spokesman Michael Rotermund.

The German market is quite enamored of copycatting U.S. Internet start-ups; Groupon, eBay and YouTube all have their carbon copies auf Deutsch. The love is not always mutual — in 2009, Facebook’s German twin, StudiVZ, was sued for being too close a likeness to the social networking giant.