Summary:

Germany’s Rocket Internet may have not made its big U.S. push yet, but one of its early plays — parenting subscription service Petitebox — has failed amid logistical problems. Will it make up for that by resurrecting the service under a new name?

Petitebox maternity leave

Farewell then, Petitebox, we barely knew you. The year-old startup, backed by German clone factory Rocket Internet, sold subscription packages for new parents… but it looks like it will never get the chance to grow up after it was effectively shut down.

On June 22, the U.S. site informed its users that it was “going on maternity leave”, and had therefore suspended everyone’s subscriptions. Then, on July 6 there was another message, apologizing for delays in sending customers their boxes and blaming the delays on “a logistics issue that was followed by the holiday”.

Cue howls of outrage, including several people complaining about being sent the wrong box, and about Petitebox not responding to customer service requests. The name of key U.S. competitor Citrus Lane was invoked approvingly more than once.

Fast forward to today, and it seems the German version of Petitebox has also gone AWOL, only this time calling it a “summer break.”

But what’s that scrabbling I hear?

Is it the site coming back to life under a different name, after infuriating many of its previous customers? Apparently so.

According to comments made by the Petitebox team on that recent Facebook thread, the service is going to come back – sort of – as a sub-brand of Glossybox, Rocket’s cosmetics subscription service.

It’s not clear whether Glossybox Baby, as it will be called, will be a Germany-only play or whether it will also roll out in the U.S. It looks set to be a slightly different model – rather than being a monthly subscription, it will involve the sale of individual gift boxes that correspond to the stages of pregnancy, childbirth and baby shower, according to reports.

There’s possibly a lesson to be learned there about the limits of subscription services, but there seems to be an even bigger lesson about the limits of Rocket’s logistics.

After all, developing web services that connect people to physical products is meant to be Rocket’s field of expertise — the basis of so many of their clone operations. And Petitebox was one of the company’s few businesses trying to make inroads into the U.S. market, alongside 21Diamonds, DropGifts, Glossybox and Wimdu.

Although I suspect their real push into the American market is yet to come, this shows that there are cracks in the strategies of the formidable Samwer brothers: if Glossybox Baby does make it to the U.S., it will look a bit like a name-change designed purely to gloss over a poor first impression.

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