Online retail giant Fab.com, which offers flash sales of designer products, has announced plans to open a physical store. The shop won’t be in New York, where Fab is based, though. It’ll be in Hamburg—right in the backyard of the notorious Samwer brothers, who launched a near one-to-one copy of Fab.com a couple of years ago in an effort to co-opt the American startup’s international business prospects.
Bamarang, the Samwer brothers’ clone, opened for business in Germany, the U.K., France, Australia, and Brazil just six months after Fab.com. The site not only offered similar products, it also closely mimicked Fab’s layout, color scheme, fonts, and photographs. “We even saw a job posting they had that was basically copied and pasted from Fab,” Jason Goldberg, chief executive officer of Fab, told me around that time. “It’s kind of flattering, but come on: If you’re going to do something about design, at least design your own website.”
The Samwer e-clone model had worked many times in the past, and the brothers have earned hundreds of millions of dollars copying the likes of EBay (EBAY), Zappos.com (AMZN), and Groupon (GRPN). Not this time. Fab fought back, loudly protesting Bamarang as a shameless rip-off and moving quickly to launch internationally in 28 countries. By June 2012, Bamarang was doing so poorly that the Samwers closed it down. (More on that here.)
Although Fab’s decision to open a store in Hamburg reinforces the company’s triumph and dominance within the Samwers’ home country, it actually has little to do with the German copycats. Fab last year began selling “Fab-exclusive products,” and on April 30 announced its acquisition of German online custom furniture maker MassivKonzept. The furniture builder just happens to have a showroom in Hamburg, which will now become a Fab retail store.
The acquisition of MassivKonzept will bolster Fab’s Designed By You option, which allows shoppers to order items made to their exact specifications. Fab also plans to open additional showrooms: “Our next target market for a Fab retail presence is in Berlin,” Goldberg writes on his website.
Berlin is where Fab’s European headquarters are located. It’s also home to the Samwer brothers’ e-commerce clone factory, Rocket Internet.