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FastAF offers goods from CBD drinks to designer hand soap. Can it take on Amazon?

Lee Hnetinka, founder and chief executive of FastAF, with merchandise.
Lee Hnetinka, founder and chief executive of FastAF, knows what Angelenos like to buy. FastAF is an offshoot of the San Francisco-based Darkstore.
(FastAF)

After the presidential election this month, the most frequently ordered items on FastAF, a new two-hour product delivery service, were CBD drinks — specifically the peach ginger CBD sparkling water by Recess and the ginger lemonade Mind + Body Function CBD drink by Vybes.

Lee Hnetinka, the founder and chief executive of FastAF, couldn’t say for sure whether the demand for these chill-out beverages had anything to do with the stress induced by the contentious election, but it was likely the case.

In the weeks since the app launched in mid-September, it’s evident that Angelenos are buying more than just CBD drinks. Based on FastAF orders, they are after sculpting bodysuits and shorts from Kim Kardashian West’s shapewear brand Skims, cleanser and brow pomade from Glossier and hand wash infused with botanical extracts from Aesop, to name a few. Hnetinka, 33, said Angelenos appear to want products and brands that are “hot in pop culture.”

FastAF, an offshoot of the San Francisco-based venture-capitalist-funded Darkstore, is targeted at millennials and Gen-Zers who want their beloved beauty, wellness, fitness and tech products brought to their doorsteps in less than two hours. Sound familiar?

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Items available for delivery by FastAF.
Items considered essential to Angelenos can be delivered by FastAF within a two-hour time frame.
(FastAF)

The service FastAF offers is part of an ongoing shift during the COVID-19 pandemic as consumers, largely sequestered at home, seek out ways to still have fun, easy and instant shopping experiences.

Prestige retail destinations are getting in on the action as well. This month, the Grove, the Americana at Brand and Palisades Village, owned by real estate company Caruso, debuted their store-to-door white-glove shopping and delivery service. Jackie Levy, chief business officer at Caruso, said the service gives consumers the ability to call personal shoppers and have them select gifts from the stores at the centers.

“We do the shopping for you,” Levy said, adding that the festively wrapped purchases are delivered the same day.

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There is no additional charge for the service and no minimum purchase, but there is a flat $20 fee for orders delivered within 10 miles of the shopping center, and $25 for up to 15 miles. (Longer distances can be requested.)

The focus for Ralph Lauren’s nephew is on building a full-fledged — and racially equitable — lifestyle brand.

This shift is playing out through retailer and social media apps and websites. Shops on Instagram, announced in May, allows e-commerce businesses to transform into storefronts, affording users the opportunity to browse and purchase products directly from the app. In September, retail behemoth Amazon announced its Luxury Stores initiative, a by-invitation offering for eligible Prime members, accessed through its mobile app. (A staple of luxe department stores and boutiques, Oscar de la Renta, for example, is one of the brands available through Amazon.)

That tech companies are seeking to carve out an ever greater share of the online shopping market is a given. According to Adobe Analytics, U.S. consumers spent some $21.7 billion online during the first 10 days of the holiday shopping season, which traditionally begins after Halloween. That number represents a 21% year-over-year jump from 2019. According to the study, pandemic-related health concerns and ordered closures have compelled people to stay home instead of venturing to malls.

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In this age of instant gratification, FastAF wants to go above and beyond, ensuring that hip and cool products can be at a customer’s home in the time it would take to find a parking spot at a store. Realistically speaking, Hnetinka said, “No one needs anything in two hours” (possible exceptions include diapers, baby formula and condoms). Then again, for some consumers, there might be satisfaction in opening their front doors — masked, of course — to a black-clad FastAF delivery person handing over a black tote bag with things they absolutely had to have right that second: Akila’s Legacy sunglasses ($105), a $75 scented candle from Le Labo or barbecue-flavored chicken skin chips from Flock ($3 a bag).

Lee Hnetinka, founder of the new delivery service FastAF.
(FastAF)

There are now some 350 companies represented on FastAF, offering about 1,600 products. The company, which has more than 60 employees, currently works with partners to make deliveries within about 20 miles from FastAF’s Santa Monica fulfillment center. Hnetinka said FastAF’s delivery zone recently was extended through the Echo Park area, where demand has been especially strong. (In New York, the FastAF service was introduced this month.)

“We saw marketplaces that allow you to get basics and [consumer packaged goods] delivered quickly and Instacarts for groceries but no marketplaces to get brands delivered quickly that we have a high affinity for,” said Hnetinka.

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With his father a computer programmer for Bloomingdale’s and his grandfather and uncles Postal Service workers, “I have retail and delivery in my blood,” Hnetinka said.

In mid-November, Hnetinka oversaw the opening of a FastAF pop-up on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, a 1,000-square-foot space that’s a showcase for some of the app’s most sought-after products.

A photo of items sold on the FastAF app.
Items considered essential to Angelenos can be delivered by FastAF within a two-hour time frame.
(FastAF)

An outdoor patio space is being used for socially distanced events — think skin-care demos, horoscope readings, fitness classes and livestream sessions by social media influencers. Hnetinka said the bricks-and-mortar location, with its snazzily painted white-and-blue exterior, will allow shoppers to be introduced to intriguing niche products. The pop-up’s Pause and Breathe section has adaptogenic elixirs from Wylde One. On the Health Is Wealth rack, there’s a tech-enhanced jump rope, the Smart Rope Rookie from Tangram Factory, and in the For Her, Him, Them category, you’ll find RetroSuperFuture eyewear from streetwear brand A Bathing Ape. The assortment, not surprisingly, is geared for holiday purchases.

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“Our goal was to curate the offerings in a way that would let people think of gift-giving,” Hnetinka said. “We wanted to take an editorial lens on each of the shelves in the store and to create something that would speak to the FastAF user. We had people come in to the store telling us that what they were looking for, like a Le Labo candle, was out of stock in the app. It’s an in-real-life extension of the app.”

Welcome to our comprehensive gift guide for the 2020 holiday season.

In the meantime, Hnetinka and his team will continue to seek out stylish, quality and on-trend brands to add to the FastAF mix — and satisfy must-have-it-now Angelenos.

Most of the products sold, he said, have a measure of exclusivity. The goods will shift based on the season and what’s tracking, as well as a brand’s aesthetic, story and social-media following.

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As the service rolls out to more ZIP Codes, Hnetinka wants to keep the app accessible and practical. FastAF deliveries take place from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Prices are the same as if a consumer were buying directly from brands themselves. There is no minimum or delivery fee for now, but starting next year, deliveries under $35 will have a $9.99 fee.

FastAF pop-up, 1306 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily through Dec. 31. All visitors will be given a face mask and tote bag upon entry. fastaf.com


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