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On the Road to Recovery?

Vitamin and health products e-tailer MotherNature.com, which laid off about 20 percent of its work force Friday, signed an agreement to provide Web-hosting services to United Natural Foods' customer base of about 6,500 retailers.

United Natural Foods is an independent national distributor of natural and related products in the United States. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The agreement will enable UNF's retailers to create customized, full-service, online stores. MotherNature.com will provide access to its 16,000 natural and organic products and will supply behind-the-scenes support functions including technical development, order-fulfillment, and customer service.

The UNF sales force will market the online product to its customer base. Retailers who purchase the service will receive their own URL and a turnkey, full-service e-commerce site.

Participating retailers will have the ability to customize a homepage to include their own logo, feature their natural products philosophy, promote in-store events/ specials, and highlight perimeter departments.

MotherNature.com and United Natural Foods are currently testing the product in a pre-launch phase and a full-scale product launch is scheduled later this month.

Following the initial roll-out of the product with UNF, MotherNature.com said it will market the new service on its own into other distribution channels under the Natural Shops Network name.

"The introduction of this new Web-hosting service enables us to enter new business channels, leverage our intellectual property, further our e-commerce capabilities, and expand our customer scope," said Michael Barach, president and chief executive officer of Mothernature.com.

On Friday the company said it has cut about 25 positions, or roughly 20 percent of its work force. In a statement, the company said its goal is to reduce cash consumption by lowering operating costs and streamlining the business to reflect current growth strategies and initiatives.

Investors have seen shares of MotherNature.com plummet from about $10 to its current level below $1. The stock was trading at about 69 cents a share at mid-day.