Andrew Pollard has been named chief executive officer of Global Apparel Network Ltd., which operates the Visuality365 online business-to-business fashion marketplace and digital communications utility, which is set to be rebranded as POP-Market. Pollard, who was previously president of Advanstar Fashion Group’s Project trade show, has also taken an equity stake in GAN Ltd.
Pollard will lead Visuality’s drive to expand its online marketplace, the newly named POP-Market. (The name references the retail term point-of-purchase.) The portal is a curated platform for brands and buyers to connect and transact online, in either an open marketplace or a closed, private channel. The system uses Visuality’s patented visual interface that allows buyers to browse line sheets, place and modify orders, and keep track of all their transactions efficiently.
“Running a physical marketplace for two years reinforced to me the need for a virtual platform that would enhance the physical experience,” said Pollard. “Gone are the days when buyers bought two or four times a year. Now, they are buying every single day and are always looking for new product.”
Pollard aims to use his network of contacts to recruit influential new brands to POP-Market, which launched earlier this year and only has about 40 brands currently. However, there is a rich base of 25,000 buyers ready to participate within the Visuality network — which originally launched in 2000 as an e-mail application that helped provide a visual element to the complex communications inherent in the fashion buying process.
Current Visuality clients include Converse, Robert Graham, Cosabella and Doctrine Jeans. On the buying side, users include Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Barneys New York, American Rag and Fred Segal. POP-Market’s revenue comes from brands who pay to be on the site, while buyers can register for free.
“We’ve got this killer technology and an enterprise system that really works. Now we want to take that expertise and build a true marketplace,” said Joe Shohfi, who founded Visuality with his wife, Danette Gorman. Shohfi is giving up the ceo title to Pollard and will become the chief product officer, where he will focus on the technology aspects of the business.
Moving the buying, planning and merchandising routines to a single, robust online platform adds numerous efficiencies throughout the process, eliminating outmoded paper orders that many buyers still use, particularly at trade shows.
POP-Market recently inked a partnership deal with Premium, the Berlin-based denim and contemporary trade show, which will market the service to its brands and buyers in exchange for a percentage of revenue from new clients it brings onboard. POP-Market will have a major presence at the entrance to the Premium show in Berlin in July.
“We are convinced that it can be a very good add-on to what we do,” said Premium founders Anita Tillmann and Norbert Tillmann, who are of no relation. “POP-Market is a visionary concept which will make it easier and more efficient to transact and communicate in a b-to-b environment, particularly in between markets. It will be more profitable and convenient for both the buyer and the seller.”
POP-Market will be going up against several existing online transactional marketplaces, including Joor, which launched in March 2010. “You can prospect stores, discover product, connect with brands and transact and place orders,” said Mona Bijoor, founder of the site. “It makes the process smarter, better and faster.”
Joor is already working with 350 paying brands and has 10,000 registered buyers. Vendors on the site include well-known names like Diane von Furstenberg, Theory, Rachel Zoe, Rebecca Taylor, Nanette Lepore, Trina Turk, Rebecca Minkoff and Erin Fetherston.
Bijoor secured an additional $3.5 million of financing on Wednesday from a group led by Battery Ventures, which has stakes in Groupon, Angie’s List and Skullcandy. The capital infusion is on top of a $2.25 million series A round of funding from the same group last July.
Bijoor believes that the competitive landscape for these kind of online platforms will shake out, leaving a single dominant player. “We want to be the system of record for every retailer,” said Bijoor. “I don’t think the industry wants confusion and brands want to be where their peers are. I think the industry benefits if there is a single, standard platform.”
Other key players in the space are NuOrder and BrandBoom, with the latter focusing on the men’s streetwear market. Last summer, Italy’s Pitti Uomo trade show launched an online component called E-Pitti that connects vendors and buyers online.
“This space is getting hot. But we think the platform with the best technology will be the one that wins — and we have the best technology,” said Nancy Berger, senior vice-president of sales and marketing at POP-Market.
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