For most women, shopping for menstrual products is a strictly no-nonsense affair: Duck into the drugstore, double-bag your box of tampons, and leave as discreetly as possible.
In 2010, New York-based illustrator Ashley Seil Smith and Paris-based hairstylist Rubi Jones dreamed of opening a brick-and-mortar retail-shop-meets-museum dedicated to making the experience easier, and maybe even pleasant. They envisioned a store stocked with chocolates and heating pads, globally sourced menstrual products, puppies, and a soundproof scream room.
After three years of scheming, the two, along with Smith's husband, Nate, have opened up The Period Store, a new online subscription service that ships $15 to $30 personalized period care packages to your door each month.
Each basic package contains a mix of artisanal chocolate, "cramp tab" pain medication, teas, and a 5x7 art print; customers can include up to three menstrual products for an additional fee. A one-time add-on option also lets customers try new products they might not want delivered each month.
But the trio's goal with The Period Store extends beyond simply bringing e-commerce convenience and subscription-based novelties to the feminine care industry. True to their original idea for a museum-style retail shop, they also want The Period Store to serve as a window onto the wide array of products that make up the $1.7 billion sanitary protection industry.
So in The Period Store's online storefront, you'll find big brands available at the corner drugstore, such as Kotex and Tampax. But you'll also find alternative products, such as eco-friendly reusable cloth pads, sponges, and silicone cups, as well as products from international brands such as Yejimin, which makes acupunctural-herb-infused pads popular in South Korea. The store's diverse sourcing is the team's first step toward addressing the larger social issues around the high cost and low access typically associated with menstrual products.
"We eventually want to partner with international organizations abroad to bring products to women who don't have access," Smith says.
And unlike some of its competitors, such as Le Parcel and My Cotton Bunny, both monthly tampon delivery services, The Period Store isn't interested in keeping talk about periods under wraps. (Smith's guess is those services deliberately chose to go with more cryptic names and discreet color schemes.)
"We're not beating around the bush--no pun intended," she says. "No, wait. Pun definitely intended."
[Image: Flickr user LadyDragonfly]