This Amazon competitor wants to be your household goods supplier

Fancy fork.
Image: boxed

One of Amazon’s biggest advantages is being the “everything store.” Shoppers can seemingly get anything they want with a few clicks, and for Prime members, there’s free and fast shipping. 

But doing “everything” is definitely not the strategy for Boxed, an online retailer that’s focused on selling household items in bulk but doesn’t offer a membership like Amazon or Costco. 

In 2017, the four-year-old company generated more than $100 million in revenue, and it expects to grow its sales by 250 percent this year. Going forward, Boxed’s focus includes reaching profitability, which its working toward in part by doubling down on its private label Prince & Spring, which isn’t mass-producing everything — at least not yet. 

Amazon has a “bunch of different private brands. We have one,” Jeff Gamsey, Boxed’s VP of private brands, told Mashable. “Our brand really focuses on the quality and design of each product and let the value speak for it.”

“At the end of the day these are disposable forks.”

Boxed is much smaller than Amazon and executives like Gamsey aren’t shy about it. Boxed offers about 1,500 items with about 80 coming from its private label, Prince & Spring. That’s far less than Amazon’s more than 500 million items and its more than a dozen private labels. Boxed also doesn’t have the legacy of a brand like Walmart, which bought startup Jet and recently launched its own label for household products

For Boxed, the business strategy is value (good quality and price) and fun. The company also has been working to infuse character into each of their household items. 

“These are products that they buy frequently, but at the end of the day, these are disposable forks. It’s not like a car or a house. They don’t give that much thought to it, but we obsess over it. We want to make products fun,” Gamsey said. 

Fun involves giving items like Epsom salt some cutesy names. There’s Lavendaaaaahhh, Spa-Some!, and Releaf Your Stress:

Epsom salts

Image: prince & spring / boxed

Not unlike Amazon, Boxed started with a simple premise. For Amazon, its early days were all about books. For Boxed, the beginning was disposable household items like bath tissues and paper plates. The retailer has since expanded to food and healthy snacks. 

The private label Prince & Spring has been Boxed’s biggest bet. The team created it when the startup was struggling to sign on new clients and wanted to compete with Amazon, Walmart’s Jet, and other retailers. Boxed cofounder Chieh Huang tasked Gamsey, employee number 10 who was then serving as general counsel, with growing Boxed’s first brand. 

Now, Boxed’s private label accounts for about 20 percent of its overall revenue, and the company’s been adding new items. The list for this month even includes something that is a little on the not-so-fun side. 

“Tide Pods are sort of dirty word these days, but we’ll have our own pack of liquid detergent and other products like peanut butter and almond butter,” Gamsey said. 

Please don’t eat these.

Image: prince & spring

Boxed doesn’t want kids eating Tide Pods, of course, but its brand does skew young. While Costco seems to target the boomer generation and Amazon targets seemingly has everyone, Boxed says it’s geared toward millennials. The company started on mobile and continues to serve that tech-savvy audience. 

When it comes to getting the word out about Prince & Spring, Boxed isn’t spending money on TV ads or billboards. Instead, it’s marketing with social and digital ads a.k.a. places their young audiences will most likely be.

Over the coming months, Boxed plans to keep adding more items. The endgame isn’t about selling “everything,” nor is it necessarily getting bought by Amazon, something that is unsurprisingly a part of many online retail startups’ and grocery chains’ longterm strategies. 

But when it comes to what they’re creating next Gamsey told Mashable, “You name it, we’re probably working on it.” 

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