By  on July 30, 2013

Advanstar Global LLC’s MAGIC Market Week has inked a deal to merge its online marketplace at shopthefloor.com with the digital business-to-business software platform from Balluun Inc. The agreement combines MAGIC’s reach among brands and buyers with Balluun’s technology, which will add new features to the trade show giant’s online commerce platform.

“This partnership combines complementary strengths and focus to benefit the markets and customers we serve,” said Joe Loggia, chief executive officer of Advanstar, whose MAGIC Market Week properties include Project, The Tents at Project, Project Mvmnt, MAGIC Men’s, WWDMAGIC, Pool and FN Platform. “Advanstar has leading brands and hundreds of thousands of customer relationships across multiple industries, while Balluun brings deep software development skills and the latest technology for B2B commerce.”

Crucially for Advanstar, Balluun will bring e-commerce functionality to Shop the Floor, which launched in beta mode in February. Prior to the Balluun deal, brands could build profiles and upload photos and line sheets to their private showrooms on the site. Going forward, brands and buyers will be able to conduct their entire order placement and order management online.

While the deal will meld the existing Shop the Floor and Balluun platforms, the latter company remains independent and can market its technology to other trade shows outside the fashion space. “People who used Shop the Floor in February will have a similar look and feel aesthetically as the original but will reap the benefits of the powerful functions the Balluun platform provides,” said Peter Koch, ceo and cofounder of Balluun, which is based in Foster City, Calif., and Switzerland. “We anticipate that there will be a migration path for our [own] platform and the look and feel will evolve as the system grows and includes new user features and benefits.”

Since February, more than 400 brands have built online showrooms on Shop the Floor and more than 20,000 buyers have accessed the site, according to Loggia. That is a small percentage of the 10,000 brands that MAGIC Market Week hosts at its spectrum of shows annually, but Loggia expects that number to increase steadily, creating the largest online B2B fashion marketplace.

The new Balluun-powered Shop the Floor site is now live for brands to build virtual showrooms and will go live for retailers on Thursday. On that date, Advanstar’s ENK portfolio of shows, acquired last November, will be added to Shop the Floor, including Coterie, ENK Vegas, WSA, Sole Commerce, Accessorie Circuit, Children’s Club and Intermezzo Collections.

Prior to the deal with Advanstar, Balluun had about 700 brands on its platform, mostly small labels with limited name recognition. The agreement brings into its digital sphere the constellation of brands in Advanstar’s trade show portfolios — although there is no guarantee that those brands will choose to conduct business on Shop the Floor, versus competing digital platforms.

The agreement between Advanstar and Balluun comes as other trade shows add digital components to their physical showcases. Both the Liberty and Agenda shows have recently partnered with NuOrder, offering vendors a 45-day free trial to that online platform.

“At the end of the day, this is the future,” said Sam Ben-Avraham, founder of Liberty and an investor in NuOrder. “I don’t see people in three or four years using paper orders anymore. It’s just a matter of time as more people start using this and getting used to it.”

NuOrder says it has more than 400 brands and 80,000 retailers on its software platform, with a roster of clients such as J Brand, Helmut Lang, Paul Smith, BCBG Max Azria, Ted Baker, True Religion, Hudson, Elizabeth & James and Superdry.

Another key player in the online B2B marketplace is Joor, which last week revealed a new $15 million Series B round of funding, with investors including Advance Publications, the parent company of Condé Nast and Fairchild Fashion Media, parent of WWD. Joor claims a user base of 600 brands — including Rag & Bone, Vince, Haute Hippie and Thakoon — and 40,000 buyers. Other competitors include Pop-Market and Brandboom.

While NuOrder has marketing partnerships with Liberty and Agenda, its platform is actually trade show agnostic, said ceo and cofounder Heath Carr. Companies on NuOrder can input any trade shows they are participating in, so that the appropriate buyers can find them. NuOrder has also created an app, overlaid on its core platform, that allows large retail clients, such as Shopbop, to manage orders for brands that are not on the NuOrder platform.

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