Overstock Taps Small-Business Market

Overstock.com</B><TICKER TYPE="EQUITY" SYMBOL="OSTK" EXCHANGE="NYSE" PRIMARY="NO"/> this week launched a new service that will process and ship orders for small businesses.
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SALT LAKE CITY (TheStreet) -- Overstock.com (OSTK) - Get Report this week launched a new service that will process and ship orders for small businesses, a strategy that has helped Amazon (AMZN) - Get Reportand eBay (EBAY) - Get Report boost sales.

The "Main Street Revolution Initiative" is a formalized program that helps manufacturers with fewer than five employees sell their wares on Overstock.com. Initially, those companies' products will be sold alongside products from bigger companies, but once the site attracts a critical mass of a few hundred small businesses, Overstock plans to launch a dedicated "Main Street" store on its site.

"I'm a big believer that small business is where big job growth is," says Patrick Byrne, chairman of the Salt Lake City company. The company is working with local chambers of commerce to sniff out potential partners and has established an internal team dedicated to working with the entrepreneurs, Byrne says.

A message on the company's Web site states the initiative "represents a grand opportunity for producers and consumers nationwide to participate and contribute to the national recovery effort. Main Street can be the engine that lifts us out of the recession that Wall Street created."

"I've been critical of Wall Street in the past," Byrne says. This is a bit of an understatement, as Byrne is renowned for his all-out war on so-called naked short selling. In 2005, Byrne made headlines when

Overstock sued

hedge fund

Rocker Partners

and research firm

Gradient Analytics

, alleging the companies colluded with the media to drive down share prices so they could sell Overstock stock short.

So far small businesses selling their wares on Overstock.com include

Nikki's by Design

, which makes customized gift baskets and sold $200,000 worth of merchandise in December;

Bidwell Candies

, "a gal in Illinois who makes gourmet chocolates;" and

Retrofutura

, "someone who designs and prints T-shirts with urban designs like Che Guevara," Byrne says.

-- Reported by Carmen Nobel in Boston

.