Gerber Scientific (NYSE: GRB) has signed a letter of intent with Internet Capital Group Inc (NASDAQ: ICGE) to form a new venture in the online apparel industry. The transaction is expected to close within 30 days.

The planned venture will build and operate a global business-to-business (B2B)e-commerce site for designing, sourcing, and manufacturing apparel and sewn goods. The open web-based B2B marketplace is intended to connect all segments of the apparel manufacturing and distribution chain, from fiber through to retail, facilitating e-commerce transactions in a secure linked environment. The new venture will also include Animated Images (AI), a software provider to the apparel industry in which ICG currently owns an interest.

According to Michael J. Cheshire, chairman and chief executive officer, Gerber Scientific Inc, the new venture will merge Gerber's WebPDM (Product Data Management) technology into a broad-based industry portal capable of streamlining what is currently a highly fragmented industry.

"Today's apparel manufacturers are facing tremendous pressures to offer consumers instant gratification in terms of style, price and quick response delivery," Cheshire states. "Our WebPDM technology, combined with the capabilities of ICG's partner companies, will provide an electronic platform that will allow manufacturers to collaborate with suppliers and retailers on such critical issues as designs and forecasts, material sourcing and procurement, bidding and credit, order fulfillment, shipping logistics, and inventory replenishment and disposal. Such collaboration will ensure productivity gains, faster time-to-market, increased market share, and decreased inventory investment."

He adds: "We're pursuing a very attractive business model with multiple revenue sources that targets a global market worth $375 billion, making the long term potential of this new B2B venture exciting. We are also exploring other alliances that will unlock the true value of additional B2B-enabling technologies Gerber has developed. "

According to Mark Lotke, managing director of ICG: "The planned venture with Gerber in the apparel industry is consistent with ICG's strategy of aligning with leading companies in the top 50 B2B e-commerce markets. Gerber's leading position with many of the premier manufacturers and retailers make it a perfect partner. We view this as an opportunity to bring major efficiencies to a fragmented apparel market in need of a more dynamic and collaborative infrastructure."

Gerber Scientific Inc provides high technology systems and solutions that enable mass customization in diverse industries. Headquartered in South Windsor, Conn, Gerber Scientific is a world leader in three core markets - sign making and specialty graphics, apparel and flexible materials, and optical lens processing - through four wholly owned subsidiaries: Gerber Scientific Products, South Windsor, Conn; Gerber Coburn Optical Inc, South Windsor, Conn; Gerber Technology, Tolland, Conn; Spandex Plc, Bristol, England; and has recently entered the packaging industry through its newly formed Gerber Innovations division, Manchester, Conn. Gerber Scientific employs 2,800 globally.

Internet Capital Group is an Internet company engaged in business-to-business e-commerce through a network of partner companies. It provides operational assistance, capital support, expertise, and a strategic network of business relationships intended to maximize the long-term market potential of more than 55 business-to-business e-commerce partner companies. Headquartered in Wayne, Penn., Internet Capital Group has offices in San Francisco, Boston, Seattle and London