Holiday sales look promising for some e-tailers


Dec. 2, 2001


Holiday shoppers appear to be making more use of the Internet for gift purchases, though not all e-tailers are convinced the Web is worth their time or investment as a method of commerce.

More than 50 million people used the Web during Thanksgiving week to start their Christmas shopping, according to a study by Jupiter Media Metrix.

That's a 43 percent increase over the same week last year.

Like the shoppers who crowded stores and malls the day after Thanksgiving, online purchases were up 68 percent on the day after Thanksgiving this year compared to last year.

The boost in online sales is more a sign of better marketing and promotional campaigns than a barometer of the state of e-commerce, a Jupiter analyst said.

While still predicting higher overall holiday e-tail sales over last year, the big winners this season will be the big, established e-commerce Web sites -- including eBay, Amazon and AOL.

With the new video game consoles on the market, gaming sites and sales are predicted to be the big leaders in sales this season.

But some bricks-and-mortar heavyweights are also planning to scale back their online efforts after deciding the return on their investment just wasn't worthwhile.

Federated Department Stores announced last week it would pull the plug on its e-commerce site.

Effective Feb. 1, will leave e-commerce to become a site to support marketing Bloomingdales' store brands.

The site wasn't profitable, though its bridal registry partnership with will continue.

Federated's Macy's Web site -- -- will undergo a less radical transformation.

Poor selling lines (particularly clothing) will be dropped from the site, while jewelry, gifts, bridal and home accessories will likely be expanded.

The Cincinnati-based firm will cut about 100 jobs. joins retailers like Wal-Mart and Kmart Corp. that have stopped selling clothing from their Web sites.

WEB BROWSER ALTERNATIVE. While Internet Explorer and Netscape's Navigator are the main applications used to view the World Wide Web, they aren't the only alternatives.

Opera Software recently released Opera 6.0, its latest version of its Web browser.

While Opera has never been a major threat to either of the dominant Web browsers, it has developed a niche following, and for good reason.

While Netscape and Internet Explorer are large programs that take a good deal of hard drive space to install, Opera is a very small program by comparison.

One of Opera's main drawing points has always been speed -- it displays Web pages more quickly than its competitors.

The fact that Opera survived the ``browser war'' between Netscape and Microsoft means the Norwegian company that developed the software must be doing something right.

Opera is a well-polished and attractive Web browser; but unlike Navigator and Internet Explorer, the Opera Web browser isn't free.

An ad-supported version of Opera is free to download. It operates just fine, and gives users a free version to try before deciding to buy. If you register the software (for $39), the advertising banner is removed. Opera offers volume and educational discounts as well.

My attraction to Opera 6.0 is simple. I like having another choice in how I surf the Web. If I don't want to use the software Bill Gates says I should when I go Web surfing, I appreciate having quality software available that outperforms the big guys.

For more information on Opera 6.0, visit the Web site at

BADTRANS WORM. In what has become nearly a weekly event, a new threat to home and office PCs is circulating on the Internet.

The Badtrans worm is a small program that makes computers vulnerable by tracking the keystrokes of the user -- which could include passwords, credit card information or other data.

Badtrans arrives as an e-mail attachment that can automatically launch itself in some versions of Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express. The program can launch simply by previewing the e-mail.

Badtrans takes advantage of a security hole that can be fixed by downloading the latest patches for Microsoft Internet Explorer and Outlook or Outlook Express. It doesn't destroy any data on your computer, but will sit there and silently watch every key you type, and e-mail that information on a regular basis.

The subject line of the worm-tainted e-mail varies, and the type of attachment can be of different suffixes, including .doc, .pics and .news.

If Badtrans arrives as an attachment in your e-mail in-box, it will have two suffixes, according to Symantec's Web site.

The first suffix will either be .doc, .mp3 or .zip. The second suffix will be either .pif or .scr. The resulting file name would look something like NEWS_WORM.doc.scr.

Symantec recommends deleting any file attachments that arrive via e-mail with either the .scr or .pif suffix.

AOL GROWTH. America Online's growth continues globally as it recently announced it had signed up more than 32 million subscribers. The average user stays online an average of 70 minutes each day.

In the past year, AOL has added 7 million members.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to, or visit on the World Wide Web.

| HOME |