United Purchasing Affiliates (UPA), Sanford, Fla., has announced the formation of a new e-commerce division. Called Wholesale America, its dedicated to the sale of commercial-industrial products via the Internet.

Its foundation is a super-sized online catalog that enables independent distributors across the country to join forces and together represents more than 600,000 brand-name products from more than 3,000 different brand-name manufacturers. The Wholesale America catalog allows customers to see and order products 24 hours a day in the areas of electrical, plumbing, HVAC, safety, tools, motors, material handing, janitorial, hardware and industrial supplies.

"Wholesale America makes the independent distributor a fully-integrated supplier able to compete head-on with the mega-stores, major chains, and catalog companies," explained Bill Corp Jr., president of UPA and Wholesale America.

Participating distributors benefit from Wholesale America's national marketing campaigns and comprehensive merchandising programs. They also receive state-of-the-art logistical support in processing and arranging delivery of orders.

Another component of the UPA e-commerce initiative is an Internet auction site. Wild Bill's Tradin' Post (www.wbtradnpost.com) provides a forum for distributors to sell their excess and idle inventory. Manufacturers also use Wild Bill's to post their excess materials, overruns, closeouts and specials.

UPA was established in 1979 and has more than 1,000 member distributors across North America. For more information on becoming a UPA member and Wholesale America affiliate, call 800-872-8258 or visit its Web site at www.wholesaleamerica.net

Bestroute.com, an online stocking distributorship of hard-to-find products and information for the trades, is seeking and accepting reciprocal Web site links to the TradeLinks feature of its site. TradeLinks is a "clickable" list of all kinds of pertinent Web sites, including the sites of manufacturers, service providers, associates, other e-commerce entities and more.

"We're interested in any links that can help our readers do their jobs more quickly, more productively or more accurately," said best-route.com's Web site Content Manager Ann Nagle. Nagle will review new link possibilities and post those of particular interest to the site's trade-oriented readers.

She asks that those who know of a great site for contractors, plant pros, engineers or other members of the electrical supply chain, contact bestroute.com by calling toll free 1-877-99ROUTE, ext. 3114, or by e-mailing contentmgr@bestroute.com

Headquartered near Syracuse, N.Y., bestroute.com is financially backed by Hughes Supply Inc. (NYSE: HUG), Orlando, Fla.

Beyond the electrical/voice/data market bestroute.com is serving initially, the company plans to expand its offerings to heating/ventilating/air conditioning/refrigeration (HVAC/R), pipe valves and fittings (PVF), plumbing and other vertical markets.

A new book from the Distribution Research and Education Foundation (DREF), the long-range research arm of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW), shows how distributors and their suppliers are engaging in innovative teamwork to reduce channel costs while increasing customer loyalty.

In Team Up, Profit Up: Partners in Channel Cost Reduction, author Tim Underhill, president of consulting firm Underhill & Associates, Tulsa, Okla., notes that distributors and their customers have long worked together to reduce costs in the supply chain. "Now, as demand for further reductions pressure them, distributors are partnering with their suppliers and getting creative," says Underhill.

Underhill cites an example from the book. "A distributor approached a manufacturer of hand cleaner for help in cutting costs for a fitness center," he says. "The traditional approach might have been to squeeze margins. Instead, the partners found an alternative that reduced the customer's cost beyond its goal without affecting their margins at all."

He explains, "The customer had been ordering 55-gallon drums and pumping the cleaner from there into containers that were used to fill dispensers. The manufacturer suggested prepackaged refills, which cut the customer's freight costs by $60,000 annually. Plus, the fitness center can now simply pull a package out and put it into a dispenser, saving labor."

Underhill adds, "This example is transferable to many other lines of trade across wholesale distribution, as are the others I've found."

The price of the book is $95 for NAW direct members, $110 for members of an NAW member association and $130 for non-members. A 5% discount applies to all orders for the book placed through the NAW publications Web site at www.nawpub.org.