Online shopping expected to hit $3.5 bil

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Consumers shopping for the holidays online are expected to push online retail sales to new levels, amounting to $3.5 billion in online retail sales by yearend, according to Forrester Research.

Forrester pointed out three areas that will help e-commerce this holiday season: Major retailers, including The Gap, eToys and L.L. Bean Inc. are online and making it easy for consumers to search for gifts by specific categories; portals have aggregated shopping sites from major brands; and dedicated gift sites such as 911gifts.com are providing online shoppers with free gift ideas, free wrapping and easy delivery services.

In other holiday shopping news, Amazon.com opened a video store and a holiday gift store. In addition to Amazon.com's standard offerings of books, videos and music, the stores will sell personal electronics, games and toys.

CompuServe opened Holiday Central on its Shopping Channel or on the Internet at www.compuserve.com/shopping. The site is designed to be a gift-giving guide to help consumers select, find and buy gifts faster. One feature breaks gifts into price categories, such as under $30 or under $50. Another feature highlights the season's best gifts.

Kids site Bonus.com has launched a Holiday Fun & Games Countdown. Kids can play games and win prizes at the site. Prizes include toys and software from Binney & Smith's Crayola., toy cars from Chevron Corp. and free subscriptions to Surf Monkey, a kids Web browser.

Copyright November 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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