An artist friend of mine introduced me to a relatively new website last month called “FAB” – a design e-retailer that has four distinguishing characteristics: (1) the products are fabulous in design, taste, or use; (2) e-mails are sent daily alerting subscribers to new products offered; (3) the products are not widely available; and (4) the products are all offered at a discount. Founded in June, 2011, FAB was the brainchild of Jason Goldberg and Bradford Shellhammer – two West Villagers who believed they could build an e-commerce powerhouse through word of mouth, which is exactly how it’s grown (witness my introduction to the website by a friend who has an eye for design).
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Many of the products overlap from one category to the next and are only available through FAB for a week. The choices are unique and special and so unlike other e-retailers. So, maybe you don’t need a beard hat or a poster of the Sex Pistols, but what about a one-year subscription to Wine Spectator for $25? Or, a fabulous umbrella with a smooth wooden handle for $25? There are kitchen essentials, posters, watches, organic snacks, fresh vegetables, books, jewelry (see the subway bracelet at right), furniture, eyewear, shoes, and even appliances. And, what they all have in common is their uniqueness or beauty in the design or taste department.
This type of e-retailing seems to serve several purposes. New products can become well-known quickly because of the large subscriber base on FAB while the product designer (or manufacturer) is not tied to FAB long-term. Designers (or manufacturers) are essentially in and out. Although they sacrifice margins in the short-term for the big increase in sales, the long-term gain is recognition and the possibility for repeat sales because the customer can go directly to the manufacturer or designer for repeat purchases which means margins are not sacrificed later. FAB benefits through the margins they make while promoting the product the week the website features it and doesn’t get stuck with inventory. It’s a win win win for FAB, designers, and customers.
As with any start-up, there are growing pains with the primary one being the amount of time the product takes to get to the customer. I’ve used the website three times in the past month and each order took a about two weeks to reach me – that’s relatively slow in this e-commerce world but e-mails from the company assure me they are working on speeding up the process. For now and for those not in a hurry and in need (or want) of unique products, then the wait may be worth it.