Not to be outdone by Walmart.com, Sears Holdings is expanding its online marketplace to attract more merchants that want to sell their merchandise on Sears.com.

Not to be outdone by Walmart.com, Sears Holdings Corp. is expanding its online marketplace to attract more merchants that want to sell their merchandise on Sears.com.

Sears, No. 7 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, quietly launched the marketplace last fall at the same time it redesigned Sears.com. Sears says its marketplace is now moving into full production and the retailer is actively looking for more business partners. The Sears marketplace platform provides new opportunities for us to deliver more shopping choices to our customers as well as open up new lines of communication with our business partners, says a Sears spokesman. This current platform expansion is an evolution of a process we established with our Internet partners last November.

The move by Sears to expand its marketplace comes after Walmart.com, the e-commerce arm of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., launched a similar initiative last month. The new Sears marketplace has been expanded to give merchants more advanced options to create a merchant account, upload product information and catalogs, and monitor their account status with a dashboard tool that provides overview information, order history, and other data. To participate in the marketplace, Sears will charge merchants a monthly fee of $39.99 and take a commission of 15% to 20% depending on the product category. For the baby, fitness, sports, shoes, tools, toys, games, work wear, and uniform categories, Sears will collect a 15% commission for each item sold. Higher commissions of 17% to 20% will be collected for items in the appliance, beauty, health, wellness, and lawn and garden categories.

Merchants can sign up at seller.marketplace.sears.com to apply to participate in the marketplace. The expansion is yet another innovative solution that paves the way for future growth in this space and helps us provide quality services, products and solutions that earn our customers trust and build lifetime relationships, says the Sears spokesman. Sears will process all transactions, but order fulfillment and customer service will be the responsibility of individual retailers.

Automotive parts direct marketer Whitney Automotive Group, operator of JCWhitney.com, is the only marketplace retailer Sears has announced so far. Last September Whitney began supplying Sears.com with more than 130,000 items for its parts and accessories inventory for cars, trucks, motorcycles and other vehicles. As of now JCWhitney.com is not listed on a product page when a customer places an order. It’s still unclear if Sears will add a merchant’s brand as it further develops its marketplace.

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But at least one industry analyst says other online retailers, especially niche web merchants that want to reach a wider audience, will be interested in the opportunity. Sears operates a family of web sites and that’s going to be appealing, says Scot Wingo, CEO of ChannelAdvisor Corp., which helps retailers sell through online marketplaces like Amazon.com and eBay Inc. While Sears doesn`t have the offline cachet that Wal-Mart does, in the online world Sears Holdings is considerably larger than Walmart.com.

Sears has yet to say if or when its marketplace open to other retailers will be expanded to include its other sites, including Kmart.com and LandsEnd.com. But now that two of the biggest mass merchandise chain retailers are competing head to head with Amazon and eBay in the online marketplace business, Wingo expects many other retailers to enter the market as well. There are going to be a lot more marketplace options for buyers and sellers hitting the streets in the next 12 months, says Wingo.

On Aug. 31 Walmart.com rolled out Walmart Marketplace, which gives shoppers access to expanded merchandise in 32 categories. So far participating online merchants include CSN Stores LLC, eBags.com and Dreams Inc.

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