The following is more seasonal news from the world of Web retailing:
Yes, in America you can even order your Christmas tree on the Web. For the second year running, Garden Escape is selling trees from North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains (www.garden.com).
Every retail analyst expects a greener Christmas online this year, at least according to an International Council of Shopping Centers survey of three dozen industry watchers. When asked which retail format would account for more of the total holiday shopping pie this season compared to last, 100 per cent cited online stores. In contrast, only 9 per cent of analysts thought department stores would take a bigger slice of consumer dollars (www.icsc.org).
Nevertheless, many brick-and-mortar stores will benefit from the Internet, according to a survey of 1000 Internet users by Cyber Dialogue. About 9 million shoppers will buy products in the physical world after first gathering information online, the firm estimates. Overall, Cyber Dialogue forecasts that consumers will spend $4.7 billion this holiday season after using the Internet - with $2 billion purchased directly on the Web and another $2.7 billion in person or by phone after first doing Web research (www.cyberdialogue.com).
Egghead.com, the lone major retailer to shut down all its stores to move solely onto the Internet, has redesigned its Web site to bring its three separate businesses - Egghead, Surplus Direct liquidation and Surplus Auction - under one virtual roof. The company says the site, based on technology from Oracle, can serve up 20 million page views and process 10,000 orders per day (www.egghead.com).
For those seeking gifts for the sports fans in their lives, CBS SportsLine has added merchandise from The Upper Deck LLC, including collectibles and memorabilia such as autographed goods (www.TheSportsStore.com).
The Disney Store Online, with 2000 items for sale, lets shoppers search for gift ideas by age group. The store offers electronic gift certificates - which still aren't available at many Web sites due to concerns over counterfeiting and other fraud. Buena Vista Internet Group, the Disney corporate division that oversees both Disney Online and ESPN's Web activities, said spending per consumer is up 20 per cent over last year (www.disney.com).