Worth Watching

Here are several pure-play online retailers that are venturing into the physical space — or thinking about making the leap:

Rent the Runway, which rents high-end designer gowns, dresses and accessories to women for weddings and other special events, will use a recent infusion of $24.4 million in financing to build showrooms where shoppers can try on the frocks and consult with stylists. The popular online destination reportedly has Chicago next on its agenda.

Fab, best known for its "everyday design" philosophy and amusing, irreverent attitude, is reported to have its sights set on brick-and-mortar. The site, founded in 2010 as a social network, has evolved into one of the Web's fastest-growing and hottest retailers, with a massive selection of design-focused goods that include kitchenware, food, furniture, art, clothing, accessories, kids' items, novelties and gadgets.

Initially dismissed by some as too hipster and edgy, Fab now counts more than 11 million registered customers across 26 countries. Sales grew by more than 500% in 2012, with one-third coming from Fab mobile apps.

According to founder and CEO Jason Goldberg, 90% of the product featured on Fab is not available at any other major store, including Amazon. (Soon-to-launch lines of Fab private-label goods will only cement its positioning.) In interviews, Goldberg has made no secret that Fab, which closed a $105 million financing round last summer, is thinking about brick-and-mortar.

"Just like Apple reinvented the retail experience for computers, we think we can reinvent the retail experience for design," Goldberg told Mashable.com in July. "Expect to see Fab stores in the future."

BaubleBar opened its first physical location in New York City last year, in part to monitor buying trends and data culled from face-to-face interactions with shoppers to inform its merchandising strategy.

Called "The Bar," the bright and cheery shop combines baubles from the trendy jeweler's online site with in-store-only offerings. It also rents itself out for "Girls' Nights Out" and other special events.

Kiddicare, the U.K.'s top online baby gear shop, has announced plans to open 10 baby superstores throughout the country. The shops will give customers "a true multichannel experience," promised the company, owned by British grocer Morrisons.

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