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Ashford.com and eBay Announce Marketing Agreement

Luxury online gift retailer Ashford.com is aiming to offload some of its slower-moving items by inking a promotional and e-tailing deal with Web auction giant eBay.

The arrangement with eBay will promote the Ashford Outlet, which specializes in discontinued or seasonal luxury goods. According to the terms of the deal, eBay will integrate the merchandise into its listings, and promote the wares to its reported 30 million members via house ads and in newsletters.

"We believe the Ashford Outlet, a trusted retailer, offers another positive shopping destination for eBay community members," said Bob Hebeler, vice president for vertical markets at eBay. "Whether it's a watch, jewelry or handbag, Ashford provides the premium shopping experience we expect from our partners."

The arrangement is the latest for Houston-based Ashford, which is striving to increase its reach. During the past few months, Ashford.com has entered into marketing agreements with American Express, Northwest Airlines, Sharper Image and MSN to promote its wares to their audiences and members.

"We're excited about increasing the exposure of our items in the Ashford Outlet through a powerful and proven auction venue," said Ashford.com chief executive David Gow. "We see this as an opportunity to develop a new channel that we believe will increase sales efficiently."

The effort is taking place at a crucial time for Ashford. Earlier this year, Nasdaq officials warned the site that it would be delisted if it hadn't lifted its stock price above the $1 mark by Monday. While the stock bounced about 55 percent on the news of the eBay deal, it continues to trading around $0.31 per share, well shy of the Nasdaq's minimum.

Meanwhile, the agreement comes as eBay is revving up for the launch of its hosted, co-branded sub-sites. During the next several weeks, the company said it would debut a direct mail and online advertising campaign (using house ads and external buys) to promote traffic to eBay Stores, an area where individual merchants can set up auction and fixed-price e-commerce sites of their own.

It's not clear whether the arrangement will springboard into Ashford's being included as an anchor tenant of eBay Stores, which already has dozens of small jewelry and luxury retailers on tap. Apparently, competition isn't a stumbling block, though. EBay has also signed giants like IBM and Hard Rock Cafe to the store, despite competition from scores from smaller, related e-tailers.