currently magento is running our retail site.
i would like to have a wholesale site with some visual differences running off the same database.
I would like the wholesale site:
1-to have a different url
2-to use matrix purchasing capabilities
3-to display products not in stock
4-to display prices after login
Is this possible with system>manage store?
Yep, that's all possible with multi-store and relatively straight forward. Since your require minor visual differences for your wholesale store I would create a child theme of your current theme and use that for the wholesale store. Try to keep the child theme to the bare minimum of templates so you don't create too many headaches when making changes to both stores.
Disabling checkout for guests on that individual store/showing out of stock products can be set from admin. Hiding prices for logged out users is pretty simple, It's all well documented so if you search you will find it.
If you need help with the actual process just post your specific questions. Here's a guide from Nexcess that may be helpful
I have a similar situation to the above. I have a retail eCommerce site. I want wholesale customers to be able to log into an account and see specific prices for them.
From what I already have set up I can already create the customer logins for our wholesale customers. Using Customer Group prices I can specify a wholesale prices. I know that by having a different store view or website I could choose which products are displayed to wholesale customers and also specify the payment methods used.
We use a web agency and they are saying that the work involves creating a clone of the current site. Does this sound correct? Reading up on it then it seems the only code change required is in the .htaccess file or is it even possible to create a new store view without any changes to the code? (so I can test what limitations we have myself).
Clone, no that's rubbish and them wanting chargeable time via a new install and long term when you have the inevitable maintenance nightmare it would produce. There are many ways to do it as various factors such as product count, customer groups, configurable products come in to play. The more you have the simpler the solution you need or the larger the hosting environment. Magento loads datasets in to memory so if you have complex or high volume pricing structures your environment will stop functioning and you will lose conversions.
You also have options like MAP and extensions, but you want to take a copy of the site into a sandbox and test from there. As an example, you could use MAP for prices to be shown only in the cart and password protect the cart for login, it's not elegant but it's business functional and almost instant to implement using internally tested Magento functionality (that one comes from a partner).
You will have to go through all the combinations to find the correct solution for your company, It will be the full learning curve, a good consultant would be able to do that for you but they are few and far between. Cloning, some of the stupid things we have come across along with our partners informing us (listed on Bloomberg so Magento is the bottom of the food chain to them) you just wonder how online companies ever succeed, with a healthy amount coming from 'certified' Magento partners.
All this is possible by creating multiple-store views in Magento. You can personalize and customize the theme of each store-view.
1. Try GeoIP Default Store Extension by FME – https://www.magentocommerce.com/magento-connect/geo-ip-store-view-switcher.html
2. For Matrix Purchasing Capabilities try CSV based Pricing by FME – https://www.magentocommerce.com/magento-connect/csv-price-table-matrix-pricing.html
3. To display Out of Stock products, use FME Out Of Stock Magento extension – https://www.magentocommerce.com/magento-connect/out-of-stock-notification-extension-subscription.htm...
4. To display Prices after login you can try FME Restrict by Customer Groups Extension - https://www.magentocommerce.com/magento-connect/restrict-customer-groups-catalog-permissions-extensi...
For more help, you can contact FME support team: https://www.fmeextensions.com/support-center.html