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AuctionWatch eyes small-business niche

The auction management company shifts focus, introducing a set of online sales and marketing services for small businesses and changing its name to Vendio.

AuctionWatch has introduced a set of new services aimed at helping small businesses sell and market their goods online, renaming itself Vendio in the process.

The new name reflects a shift for the San Bruno, Calif., company away from auction management, in which it made tools strictly for helping merchants keep track of online auction activity on sites such as eBay, the company said on Wednesday. As Vendio, the company plans to expand into offering sales tools for other e-commerce venues, such as for custom Web sites, for fixed-price storefronts on Amazon.com and Yahoo, and for Google's online shopping tool Froogle.

As part of its small-business expansion, the company recently added e-mail marketing to its set of hosted online sales tools for tracking auctions and creating Web storefronts.

With a broader set of services, the company hopes to give Microsoft bCentral a run for its money, targeting companies with between one and 20 employees, Vendio CEO Rodrigo Sales said. Microsoft bCentral is a set of Internet services for small businesses that includes Web site hosting.

Vendio, founded in 1999, has shifted course before. In a 2001 restructuring, the company shut down its news and editorial operations and abandoned an effort to court large businesses.

The 50-person company is one of several companies, including rivals Andale, Fairmarket and AuctionWorks that have ridden the coattails of online auction giant eBay's popularity, offering services such as order fulfillment to merchants.

Over the past year, these auction management companies have reported improved finances following a period of cutbacks. The cutbacks seem to have paid off for Vendio. The privately held company said it turned a profit in 2002 under generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), its first full-year profit.

Though Vendio's Sales declined to disclose the company's earnings and revenue, he said it collects 1 percent to 2 percent of the approximately $50 million worth of merchandise sold per month through its services. Vendio charges a combination of subscription, transaction and listing fees for its services.

The company expects to pay off its debt in the current quarter and then acquire complementary businesses in an effort to broaden its appeal, Sales said.