A Fab.com founder moves on to another e-commerce mission
January 29, 2015 12:43 PM
Striving to replicate the delight of finding a unique item in a store, one of three founders of web-only retailer Fab.com plans in the weeks ahead to launch an e-commerce site that showcases the products of small-scale designers and other suppliers.
The members-only Bezar.com will feature sales via online pop-up shops, with art, furnishings, jewelry and accessories. Sales will feature one designer at a time and usually last for three days.
Shellhammer recognizes that there is a place for highly efficient retail sites that sell mundane items like toothpaste and paper towels. “But what about a special purchase? You don’t always want to buy the thing that’s easiest to click on,” he says. “You want to take the time to find something special and unique, something that might not exist in another store. We want to bring out the emotional part of shopping.”
At Bezar.com, shoppers will see bright, bold colors all but bursting from the screen, as though that visitor walked into a room devoted to modern design trends in an art museum. Aside from fine jewelry, prices typically will range from $65 to $85, Shellhammer says.
The site’s missions is similar to that of Etsy Inc.—the online retailer of handmade crafts and vintage goods that is reportedly headed toward an initial public offering—and The Grommet, which sells products made by artisans and recently launched a wholesale site.
Shellhammer, however, says he is going after a different demographic: young, urban professionals. While acknowledging the success and influence of the other companies, he says Etsy “has a traditional, feminine feel,” and The Grommet lacks the “level of curation and design” he intends for Bezar.com.
He expects Bezar.com to open in March. He has raised at least $2.25 million in capital from such investors as Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Burch Creative Capital, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures and Andy Dunn, founder and CEO of apparel retailer Bonobos.com.
Bezar.com hired Spree Commerce to supply most of its e-commerce platform technology, in part because Dunn recommended the company, which serves Bonobos, No. 282 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, but no other web merchants in the Top 1000, according to Top500Guide.com. Shellhammer also says he wants to avoid the relatively complex situation at Fab.com, where 100 in-house developers worked to keep the site running.
Shellhammer left Fab.com in late 2013, one week after Fab.com launched a major web site and mobile app redesign, which company executives said marked the completion of its transition away from a flash-sale business model. CEO Jason Goldberg has said Fab.com, which raised $300 million in venture capital, was burning through $14 million a month before it was scaled back. After major layoffs and other changes, he said the e-retailer’s monthly expenses were reduced to $1 million.
Shellhammer was the design talent behind Fab.com, while Goldberg handled day-to-day business decisions and Nishith Shah, the third co-founder, oversaw technology.
A key lesson Shellhammer says he learned at Fab was to sell “things not available on Amazon,” which is the No. 1 merchant in the Top 500. But, while Amazon is famous for its fast delivery, Bezar.com shoppers will have to be patient, he says, because the “army of designers” supplying Bezar.com with its retail products isare not big enough or funded enough to have lightning-quick production lines.
Some consumers might end up waiting nearly three weeks for their items to arrive. “At Bezar, we will own that like a badge of honor,” he says. “We are trained to have instant gratification, but if (customers) wait, we will promise that our products are made in the U.S.A., and that they will be really special and can’t be bought at the large retail chains.”
That’s one reason Bezar.com will, for the time being, require shoppers to sign up as members before they can browse the sales, he says. That tactic also provides members-only e-retail sites with valuable marketing data. Shellhammer wants his customers to know what they are in for, a mission he says he will regularly promote in the site’s e-mail marketing messages and newsletters.