After leaving Fab.com in November and doing some soul searching on the beach, Fab cofounder and former chief design officer Bradford Shellhammer has decided on his next move. Shellhammer has been named the chief design officer for the outdoor retailer Backcountry.com.
Backcountry, an online-only retailer for all your outdoor gear needs, certainly has a different clientele and product than Fab’s lifestyle brand. (Think REI, but Internet only.) “It’s obviously not the world I’m familiar with,” Shellhammer told Fast Company. “I’m not an avid skier. I’m not a mountain climber.”
But in other ways, the role will be familiar. Brought on by former Fab CMO and current Backcountry CMO Scott Ballantyne as a consultant back in January, Shellhammer was already helping the 18-year-old online retailer rethink the way it tells stories around its products. Over the last few months, he has conceived of unique ways to market to consumers, like Bottoms Up–a “collection about liquid delight, hot or cold,” which showcases ways to drink while climbing or hiking. The page shows products but also serves up fun BuzzFeed-style, GIF-packed listicles like “25 Signs You Had A Good Time Camping Last Night.” It feels much fresher than the standard product page that might show, for instance, a bunch of tiny pictures of numbingly similar Nalgene bottles, which is pretty much how Backcountry sold its merchandise pre-Shellhammer. You can even see a little of the Fab aesthetic in the new look: It’s selling a lifestyle, not a thing.
The Shellhammer magic worked. Sales spoke for themselves, according to Shellhammer, and after a couple of weeks, Backcountry wanted him full time. Despite not being much of a gearhead, Shellhammer found the work revitalizing.
Going forward, he will continue to tinker with the shopping experience, from the site UI, to email layouts, to banners, to checkout. “It’s what you need to do to compete with the Amazons of the world,” he said. Shellhammer will also help launch an in-house brand for Backcountry, something he had started to do while at Fab, after realizing selling other people’s products is not the best business model.
Beyond his enthusiasm and “curatorial flair,” Shellhammer brings his experience as the “soul” of Fab. There, he not only bottled his aesthetic and sold it to the world, but helped foster a collaborative culture, he claims. “What I was able to do was break through silos and get people on teams that don’t always work well together or that have different business objectives,” he told Fast Company.
Working across creative teams, he hopes to do the same at Backcountry. “It’s not bringing my look or the feel or my point of view or my taste level to Backcountry; obviously, I have to adapt that to their history and their brand,” he said. “But the one thing I am doing, which I did at Fab, is getting people to work together and have fun. That’s a really important thing, especially in retail. Because why would you work in it if you weren’t having fun?”