Bloomberg Businessweek

Boxed In

Blue Apron’s struggles show there’s no easy road to profit for e-commerce subscription services

In the complex world of e-commerce, subscription boxes are such a simple idea that they sound foolproof. Customers sign up for regular installments of your products—meals, wine, cosmetics, clothes, whatever. They trust you to send them things they’ll mostly want, and they trust you with recurring payments on their credit cards. It’s a model meant to synthesize tech buzzwords such as “disruption” with an old-school, Columbia House sense of brand loyalty. What could go wrong?

Blue Apron Holdings Inc. is an object lesson. The meal-kit maker’s

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