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UPS, wholesaler offer e-credit to retailers

The new deal will allow buyers and sellers to close their AmericasMart transactions via the Internet.

    Continuing to spread its e-commerce wings, United Parcel Service said today it is teaming with AmericasMart.com to offer a credit card to retailers buying goods online.

    UPS Capital, which is the shipping company's financial services arm, and wholesale giant AmericasMart will provide retailers with a cobranded MasterCard for conducting transactions over AmericasMart's online marketplace. UPS Capital will also issue a revolving line of credit that retailers can use online, as well as at AmericasMart trade shows.

    Through the deal, AmericasMart said, retailers using its site will be able to conduct transactions faster and easier. Before this deal, transactions took longer because a manufacturer would have to go offline to verify a customer's credit.

    With the approved line of credit from UPS Capital as well as the joint credit card, a transaction can be completely conducted online.

    AmericasMart is an Atlanta-based wholesale trade show that brings together manufacturers and small to midsize retailers for the purchasing of goods such as housewares, apparel, jewelry and rugs.

    The joint initiative marks the first deal UPS Capital has inked with an online marketplace.

    "Business-to-business (e-commerce) is our focus," said Bob Bernabucci, president of Atlanta-based UPS Capital. "We see this as a great opportunity to get started" in the market.

    Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    In recent months, UPS has made an aggressive effort to expand into Internet-related areas, providing businesses with more than its core shipment and delivery service. The company now sells an electronic-document delivery service, offers consulting to Web companies on logistical problems associated with home delivery, and helps companies such as Ford use the Internet to track the delivery of their goods.

    While UPS has been on the move, it continues to face competitive pressure from longtime rivals such as Federal Express and Airborne Express, which have stepped up their Net efforts.

    Bernabucci said UPS Capital intends to offer a number of other financial services to online businesses.

    In April, the company detailed an electronic bill payment service that zeroes in on business-to-business customers. Through that new service, UPS helps control the flow of money between buyers and sellers.