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NEW YORK — A new virtual marketplace called Monkey N Middle has gone live, bringing together apparel, accessories and footwear wholesalers and retailers.

This story first appeared in the November 2, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Monkeynmiddle.com has been developed by Monkey N Middle, a privately held company based in Hoboken, N.J. The business-to-business portal is a Web-based virtual showroom with an EDI-capable purchasing utility. The executives behind Monkey N Middle are Michael Penchansky, founder and chief executive officer, and Stan Mayer, chief operating and chief financial officer.

Penchansky is a former footwear industry executive who has held posts at Nine West, Kenneth Cole Productions Inc. and Macy’s Inc. “Our virtual showroom enables brands to showcase their complete product lines and to access a far wider range of customers. Just like in a physical showroom, coordinated styles, products and availability can be presented to and purchased by the retailer,” he said. He said a common shopping cart feature enables retailers to review all purchases in a style-out before finalizing purchase orders.

According to Penchansky, there is no cost for retailers to use the platform. He noted that the system also allows direct communication between retailers and wholesalers.

The company’s initial target is small-to-midsize retailers, mainly specialty stores where Monkey can be a benefit to them as well as the brands trying to reach them, he said. He said the site’s intention isn’t to eliminate sales representatives or trade shows, but to give wholesalers and retailers the tools to review what they’ve seen at trade shows and at market appointments and to do more of their business virtually.

Current brand launch partners are Elliott Lucca; The Sak; Sak Roots; Jalda; Nuana Kane; Chocolat Blu; Fugu Malibu, a new collection by Blowfish; Nine West Kids; Messeca, and Buco by Jesselli Couture. It is currently accepting applications from retailers and branded suppliers. “There are no up-front costs [to the wholesaler],” said Mayer, who was formerly chief financial officer of Kenneth Cole Productions. He explained that wholesalers will pay Monkey N Middle a commission when they ship merchandise.

Wholesalers are able to design their own showrooms on the site. They can include their logos and their company histories, as well as showcase their collections by category and delivery and attach line sheets, colors and material swatches. The site spotlights the product using multiple images and zoom features. Monkey can also manage a territory independent of a representative, or act as a tool assisting a sales team to grow any business. Order management is automated by Monkey, which collects all retail information.

Retailers can create a store profile and update and manage their profile. They also can do around-the-clock purchasing. The site offers purchase order details, order history, transaction details/payment methods, and a virtual map to plot and track distribution. Users can receive alerts on new brands, trade shows and trends.

Mayer said retailers have to be approved by the wholesaler, who will check their creditworthiness. “Every wholesale company will decide how they’ll do business. We don’t get involved in the whole financial transaction. We act as a facilitator,” said Mayer. He explained that once the wholesaler accepts the retailer, then that wholesale brand shows up in the retailer’s marketplace, and the next time they log on, the retailer will see that wholesaler’s logo on their page, and they can enter the brand’s virtual showroom.

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