What is a lucky pack?
I quote trancegeminii, who said it best:
"A lucky pak/bag/sack, also called Fukubukuro is a conglomeration of various articles for sale given out usually once yearly by a shop in Japan. The bags usually offer a products with a HUGE value for less than half off. (i.e. Metamorphose offers lucky packs with 392 C$ (45000yen) worth of products for only 130 C$ (15000 yen).) The contents are always a secret.
The bags are usually only sold at New Years time and are a way that stores can push out old merchandise from the previous year. (an old Japanese traditions states that its bad luck to start the new year with thing from the previous one)
Some companies (like metamorphose) offer the bags twice a year."
And pgchan offers further insights:
"New Years is the biggest sale season in Japan, so it's more usual to see one then, but you'll also see them at store anniversaries, events, and promotions. I seem to recall that Baby at the La Foret and in Takasaki both had ones in the past year where if you bought a certain amount, then you got to draw lots to see if you got one. I once got a novelty lucky pack at Angelic Pretty where it was being sold at 5pm, and everyone who came for one had to play giant store-wide janken for it against the salesgirl (who was standing on a chair both so her hand could be seen and so she could see everyone elses). X3;
Lucky packs are usually, generally, random. Sometimes a special set is made FOR the pack, playing on the limited edition appeal. For example, I think that Miho Matsuda's packs are ALWAYS made specifically for the pack (and they also rarely do them)."
Some stores also do a similar item called a starter pack, which offers basic items for new lolitas. These usually have the contents revealed and are often sold for anniversaries or store openings. This appears to be similar to the special set that Metamorphose has now produced a few times, in which the designs and colors are released beforehand, but the sets have to be preordered at a special time, in the color that the buyer prefers. The difference here is that you have an idea of what you will receive.
What kinds of items do lucky packs have?
It varies depending on the brand. Some lucky packs contain an entire coordinated outfit. Some contain a mish-mash of different items such as bloomers, one-pieces, skirts, and jumper skirts. Some contain only accessories. Some brands offer two kinds of lucky packs, a larger, more expensive one, and a smaller, cheaper one. Some also offer packs in multiple sizes (but most do not, so you need to be aware of that brand's usual sizing before you buy).
Is a lucky pack worth it?
Some people say yes. You get a really great deal on some rather expensive items, and often they're great wardrobe-building items such as skirts and bloomers. But others say no, because the contents of your lucky pack are secret, and therefore you take a risk in buying it. Often, the contents of the lucky pack will be leftover stock that the store is trying to get rid of, so there is a chance of receiving something that nobody else wanted.
What seems to happen most often is that recipients of lucky packs trade or sell the items they don't like for ones that they do.
What brands do lucky packs? [I'll add to this list as people name brands that do this.]
Baby the Stars Shine Bright
Black Peace Now
Juliette et Justine (possibly a one-time thing)
Sexy Dynamite London
Pina Sweet Collection
How do I get one?
Metamorphose, Baby, and Innocent World now both offer luckypacks to international customers through their website. Beth, Victorian Maiden, and Putumayo sell online, but not overseas. Every other brand requires people to show up at the physical store, where there are often long lineups, but somebody with a good amount of pocket change can sometimes pay a shopping service or friend to get one. There is also a chance of finding one on Yahoo!Japan, and sometimes Celga will stock up on a few to resell here. Be warned that some brands actually sell very few lucky packs, making them very difficult and expensive to get a hold of.
So how do I order a Metamorphose lucky pack?
Meta announces the lucky pack date and has instructions on how to order on their site. For example:
Ordering a lucky pack is different from non-lucky pack orders.
1) You will need to send them an email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
2) You will fill out the email (with all the required information listed on the site) before the sale time (but not send it).
3) For days beforehand you will have nightmares that it's sold out.
4) You will set at least 2 alarm clocks so you will be sure to be awake when the packs go on sale.
5) You pray your internet will not die. You snap at anyone who tries to talk to you as the time draws near.
6) You will bite your nails, watching the official Meta clock tick down the seconds.
7) As one, girls all around the world will hit "send," hoping their order goes in nanoseconds before the others, but without crashing Meta's server.
8) You think you can finally relax and go to sleep but in reality you are on edge, waiting for your confirmation email, and then your tracking number, so you can spend days stalking the mailman.
Usual cost of lucky packs: http://community.livejournal.com/egl/8772330.html
BtSSB lucky packs: http://community.livejournal.com/egl/5441931.html
More about lucky packs: http://community.livejournal.com/egl/8772330.html
See also: 'Fukubukuro' on Wikipedia
Please feel free to add to or correct any of the information here.