May 6, 2014, 1:41 PM

The Grommet online marketplace plans a wholesale site

The move comes amid similar plans from Etsy, another online marketplace that appeals to shoppers seeking artsy or unique products.

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Another online marketplace for artsy and otherwise unique products plans to enter the world of wholesale e-commerce.

The Grommet, a six-year-old operation that uses video and other methods to tell the stories behind the food, home décor and other products it sells, says it expects to launch its wholesale site in June. That would beat the expected Aug. 1 launch date of Etsy Inc.’s business-to-business site.

Both The Grommet and Etsy enable consumers to shop for products from artisans and independent merchants, though The Grommet tends to exercise more control over the products it allows on its marketplace. The company explains on its web site how it curates, tests and validates the items it sells. “First, they must be true innovators,” it says. “Second, they must have rich stories to share (often full of blood, sweat and tears). Third, they must be built on strong values.  Those values can include preserving a handcraft, solving a problem in a fresh way, creating jobs in a struggling or developing region, building a social or green enterprise, manufacturing in the USA, or inventing new technologies.” 

In any case, the looming launches of online wholesale operations from those two marketplaces shows how digital B2B commerce involves a wide range of suppliers and unusual products, going beyond industrial and office supplies, building materials and the like. “The presence of both The Grommet and Etsy in this pace speaks to the size of the opportunity and the potential for disruption,” says Grommet co-founder and chief discovery officer Joanne Domeniconi, adding that her company is not “focused” on competing with Etsy.

The Grommet spotted an obvious wholesale opportunity, she says. “Over the years we have developed a community of tens of thousands of retailers who follow our product discoveries,” she says. “Connecting our community of Grommet Makers and interested retailers is especially important now as the race to bring products to market is faster than it has ever been before. For retailers, a merchandising strategy that is focused on distinctive products is a key differentiator while so much of the competition currently focuses strategy on price alone.” Grommet refers to the artisans whose product it sells as Grommet Makers.

The Grommet wholesale site will have similar features—video, consumer reviews, product stories—as the consumer site, the spokeswoman says, without providing more details. “The look and feel on the B2B site will be very similar to what you see now on TheGrommet.com,” she says. “However, the retailer offering will be different, as they will be purchasing wholesale configurations at wholesale prices for the purpose of resale. The wholesale platform will be available only to retailers with a reseller certificate.”

She adds that the wholesale site will enable retail buyers to send direct messages to the artisans who sell on The Grommet.

The Grommet’s in-house development team has built and is putting the final touches on the wholesale site, she says. "The wholesale portal is a new venture for us so it is hard to forecast, but when The Grommet is at a $1 billion revenue size, we’d expect wholesale to comprise more than 60%."

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