Gourmet retailer Barnie's Coffee & Tea Company is partnering with e-commerce and fulfillment outsourcer Connextions.net to increase its fast-growing Internet sales division and facilitate nationwide expansion to as many as 1,000 stores over the next five years.

Barnie's, which is headquartered in Orlando, is one of the country's leading privately held specialty coffee retailers, including an active mail order and gift basket department. The company operates 100 stores in 16 states and generated $38 million in revenue in 1999.

Connextions.net, also privately owned and headquartered in Orlando, specializes in integrating leading-edge e-commerce technology with customer service and fulfillment. Its clients include a combination of Fortune 500 companies such as CBS and 3M, growing e-tailers such as eZiba.com and catalogers such as Health Authority and The Wedding List.

Under the agreement, which takes effect August 1, 2000, Connextions.net will support Barnie's direct-to-consumer sales via the Internet and the company's distribution of products to its chain of retail stores. Specifically, Connextions.net will provide Barnie's with development of integrated Web applications, inventory storage and management, order fulfillment and shipping, customer service, customer relationship management and project management. Barnie's will move all inventory from its existing 30,000-square-foot warehouse in downtown Orlando to Connextions.net's new 120,000-square-foot Web-enabled fulfillment center on Mercy Drive, which opens in July.

On the business-to-business front, Connextions.net will streamline Barnie's retail chain distribution with Web-based purchasing, inventory management and Internet-based ordering services, as well as fulfillment and shipping.

"Barnie's Coffee is now in a position to prepare for extremely high growth," said Chief Executive Officer Richard Ungaro. "We view this as a strategic alliance where each company brings its unique core competencies to the table, one which will allow Barnie's to grow faster than we ever could on our own."

"We see so much opportunity, particularly in the area of e-commerce," said Ungaro. "During Christmas 1999, we really went after e-commerce and mail order sales, and were very encouraged by the results. What really opened our eyes to the potential was the fact that California and Japan generated the most impressive sales, even though we don't have a local presence in either market."

"Connextions.net's ultimate core competency is the ability to help companies grow," said company founder Jack LeFort. "Our alliance with Barnie's Coffee & Tea Company is a perfect example of that competency. With our help, Barnie's can focus on growing and marketing their business, confident that critical functions like systems integration, customer service and fulfillment are in capable hands."

Barnie's ambitious expansion plans require a "best of all worlds" understanding of the technology, services and management necessary to leverage a successful "clicks and mortar" initiative, according to LeFort.

"Traditional fulfillment and call center companies don't have the capabilities to integrate front-end development with back-end systems," he said. "At the same time, many technology and Web development companies provide a technology solution without ever having spoken with a customer or shipped a package. Connextions.net has the big-picture technology expertise so essential to successful e-commerce, coupled with more than 30 years of customer service and fulfillment experience."

Barnie's Coffee & Tea Company is one of the country's leading privately held specialty coffee retailers, including an active mail order and gift basket department. The company operates 100 stores in 16 states and generated $38 million in revenue in 1999. Founded in Winter Park, Florida in 1980, Barnie's is recognized as an industry pioneer for introducing specialty coffee and tea from New Mexico to New York to Miami. For more information on Barnie's, visit the Web at http://www.barniescoffee.com.

Connextions.net specializes in integrating leading-edge e-commerce technology with customer service and fulfillment. The company offers comprehensive services including Web application development and systems integration, inventory storage and management, Web-enabled fulfillment and shipping and Web-enabled customer service via phone, e-mail and live chat collaboration. Connextions.net is headquartered in Orlando, where it is opening a 120,000 square-foot Web-enabled fulfillment facility and 170-seat call center in July 2000. Its clients include a combination of Fortune 500 companies such as CBS and 3M, growing e-tailers such as eZiba.com and catalogers such as Health Authority and The Wedding List.