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The ability to track retail inventory has been on the retail wish list for years. Retailers advertise goods, and then disappoint customers when they don’t have them in stock. Or they have loads of stock in the store, and don’t know they need to promote it to deplete it. Or they have a lot of inventory in one location, but can’t steer customers to the right store.

Solutions have been in the works for some time, for various functions and purposes. Some have been telecom-oriented. McDonald’s, for instance, started keeping track of Big Macs and Double Cheeseburgers in 1990 via ISDN. Most, however, have been relatively primitive phone-in efforts.

In 2006, for instance, StepUp, which is now part of Intuit’s Homestead, showed the way for online inventory management by letting stores fill out inventory on a spreadsheet. A sophisticated, contemporary effort has been mounted by Krillion, which provides inventory for computers, electronics, cameras, appliances and other goods, while selling advertising around it.

More recently, we’ve also seen develop an inventory solution for both national and local players. Wishpond is pursuing a similar strategy. The timing for both companies appears to be ripe. was purchased two weeks ago by eBay for $75 million.

Milo has integrated with various media partners, such as The Sacramento Bee. Today, Wishpond announced a partnership to do the same with PaperG, which builds display ads on the fly for a large list of newspapers. In this case, PaperG will be able to spec out a display ad based on inventory availability (i.e., “denim hats at Davey’s Army Navy store”). Customers of its PlaceLocal service can utilize the service.

PaperG CEO Victor Wong tells us that Wishpond’s solution lets PaperG and its media partners get down to the product level for both national chains and for local stores. Roughly a quarter of its advertisers are local SMBs, he notes. Using Wishpond, “toys are ads,” he says.

“The next natural evolution to local display advertising is to show what stores and products are available within driving distance of the consumer,” Wong added, in a statement. “Ad units that allow consumers to find information on local product availability can dramatically improve the offline conversion rates of shoppers.”

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