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B2B start-up targets promotional gear

PPINetwork.com plans to test a new portal intended to bring together distributors and suppliers in the $20 billion market for promotional gear.

    Start-up PPINetwork.com will be testing a new portal Monday intended to bring together distributors and suppliers in the $20 billion market for promotional gear.

    PPINetwork chief executive Andrew Barer said the business-to-business e-commerce firm intends to simplify the relationship between suppliers and distributors by handling transactions and orders for clients online. Promotional gear typically includes items such as mugs, bags, t-shirts or any other product emblazoned with a company name or logo.

    Like other business-to-business companies, PPINetwork.com will serve as the middleman between all parties involved in the promotional goods business. The idea is to cut costs for everyone involved by moving transactions online, speeding up sales and eliminating paper trails.

    Barer said he intends to build the site into a large exchange, which buyers and suppliers will use to purchase and sell goods and services online. The company plans to collect $1 per transaction conducted on the site.

    As PPINetwork revs up to take its site live, it will face competition from Promoorder.com, which hosts and makes software for promotional product distributors, and Madetoorder.com, a services provider to corporate logo merchandisers and consumers.

    PPINetwork plans to open its exchange to the many subcontractors that are part of the promotional gear supply chain, including logo weavers and t-shirt screeners. These companies could use the site to do business with t-shirt makers or cotton suppliers, for example.

    PPINetwork said it is working with many companies to build its exchange, including Swiss Army Brands and Artcraft Sports, which makes team uniforms, banners and other sports gear.

    Though still in the works, the company revenue model initially will be based on a $1 per order transaction, something that differentiates the company from the more traditional model taken by many business-to-business players who take a certain percentage of the transaction fee.

    "There are two games being played in the market these days," said Summit Strategy analyst Marty Gruhn. "There are those who take a percentage of a transaction, and then there is the one flat fee per click. The customer likes something like this $1 per order, because he feels like he isn't getting gouged every time he makes a transaction."