There’s a new way to shop in DC, and it’s sort of a cross between Amazon, a pop-up shop, and a personalized style box. It’s called Santa—and instead of a sleigh filled with gifts, it’s an app that allows you to buy goodies from a colorful truck that will deliver to your door. The Santa trucks first launched in September in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and they made their way to the DC suburbs (and parts of the city) in May.
Washingtonian shopped the Santa truck—here’s what we learned.
How Santa works
When you log on to the app, you choose your “shopping preferences” from a selection of categories: men’s, women’s, kids, pets, and babies. When the Santa truck is in your neighborhood, you’ll get a text from your personal shopper and you have 45 minutes to shop on the app. Looking for something and the truck’s not around? You can summon the truck, and it will usually stop by the next day.
Once you’ve checked out on the app, your purchases will be delivered to your door by your personal shopper in a Santa-branded tote bag (yes, you can keep it). You have 48 hours to request a return, which you can schedule with the truck for the next day. All the shopping is done from the app—think of the truck itself as more of a mobile warehouse.
What Santa sells
What you see on the Santa app depends on the shopping preferences you’ve chosen, what season it is, and whether you’re building a relationship with your personal shopper—my personal shopper, Assata, said she’ll send men’s clothes to a client’s app if she knows their boyfriend is in town, or pet treats if she remembers spotting a dog the last time she was at a client’s house. (The pets section, Assata says, is huge with her customers). The general selection is wide-ranging—for example, shopping with my preferences set to “women’s,” I saw an assortment of clothes, jewelry, bags, and skincare, along with candles and fancy olive oil. Though I didn’t see it on the app, Assata mentioned she also had glittery maple syrup and inflatable pools on hand—things, it seems, your personal shopper may suggest based on your of-the-moment needs. The clothes are straight sizes, running from XS to XXL, though I noticed some of the clothing came in a more limited range. In addition to merchandise from larger brands, Santa says they stock items from local small businesses in the area.
“There are some essentials, but you shouldn’t buy milk and eggs from us,” says Roee Adler, CEO and co-founder of Santa. “It’s more elevated fashion and cool things for your home.”
Adler called Santa’s merchandise “affordable premium:” When I browsed the app, the clothes ranged from $148 for a pleasant blouse to $395 for an asymmetrical skirt. However, other items Santa offers are closer to “affordable affordable:” The dog treats, for example, were around $8. Adler says they don’t charge more than the list price for items, and they occasionally have discounted items.
The best way to use the app (in my opinion)
The secret to getting what you want from the Santa app is to tell your personal shopper what you’re looking for. For example, when your personal shopper texts you that they’re in the neighborhood, you can text them back to tell them you need for a host/hostess gift, a housewarming present for a new friend in town, or a birthday gift for your child’s classmate. Your personal shopper can offer suggestions, or send you a virtual storefront of specific categories for you to browse.
“Part of what makes Santa awesome is this feeling that there are human beings on the other side that get to know you and curate the products for you,” Adler says.
While we wish you could search the app or see the full contents of the truck, it’s nice to have the personal shopper help you find that perfect gift. (The Santa team says more categories, unisex options, larger sizes, and a search bar feature may be coming soon).
While I’m not sure I’d shop Santa regularly for myself, it seems like a great way to buy gifts—especially for people you’d otherwise find hard to shop for. Being able to browse a curated selection of potential gifts seems like a much smoother shopping experience than rushing through Target to find a passable gift last-minute, especially if the Santa truck happens to be in your neighborhood at the right moment.
The app could also be used to treat yourself. On a sunny Friday, I was browsing the app and saw a “Boardwalk Picnic Basket” offered, complete with anything you might want in a picnic basket. If I wasn’t at work (and I had $100 to spare), I might’ve ordered it. I mean, why not have a picnic? After all, Adler said the idea behind Santa is to “add some sparkle” to your day.