Santa bringing some online retailers Christmas cheer


Dec. 23, 2001


A flurry of last-minute online holiday sales appear to be giving Web retailers something to jingle in their Christmas stockings.

Despite the slowing economy, the recession and the fallen value of online advertising, retailers who have persevered may finally be seeing their online ventures start to pay off (or at least produce some income).

Toy sales have been hot with most of the big retail chains, and particularly so for the toy retailers Toys R Us and K-B Toys.

Sales at K-B Toys' Web sites, and, are both well above budget, the company reported.

While sales of clothing has been lackluster for, and other online merchants, toys have been big sellers -- particularly the video game consoles and educational toys like LeapFrog.

EBay -- not the first Web site that comes to mind when toy shopping -- has done big business with toy listings, especially the hard-to-find items. Harry Potter-related books and toys are hard to find in many stores, but a search on turned up more than 14,000 items -- including the most out-of-stock LEGO Hogwarts Castle.

For, the bookseller-turned-superstore, Santa may bring the company's first profits.

Analysts predict strong Christmas sales will push the company's sales for the last quarter of this year over the $1 billion mark -- its largest quarterly sales figure ever.

BUG SAFETY. Warnings of the latest computer virus or worm are becoming almost daily events for PC users. The cretins who make these things continue to try and tie them into the latest season or holiday, and Christmas has been no exception.

The latest worm, Reeezak, arrives as an e-mail attachment named "Christmas.exe" with the subject line "Happy New Year."

Reeezak can disable certain keys on an infected computer's keyboard, and delete the files in the Windows system directory, making the computer inoperable.

Like so many other recent computer bugs, Reeezak e-mails itself to the addresses in the infected computer's e-mail address book. Those who receive the bug will see it as an e-mail from someone they know and may click on the attachment, which will start the worm program's infection of the recipient's computer.

Other names for the worm are W32.Zacker.C+mm and W32.Maldal.C+mm.

Another worm that is spreading via e-mail is called Shoho, or Welyah.

Shoho takes advantage of an old vulnerability in Internet Explorer that has been patched. Shoho affects only users who haven't updated their browser with the latest patches. But Shoho is destructive; it attempts to delete a number of files in the Windows system directory.

The worm arrives in an e-mail with the subject line "Welcome to Yahoo Mail."

The text of the message asks the user to open the attached message, readme.txt, which is actually an executable file that contains the worm.

The easiest way to bring your Internet Explorer up to date is to upgrade to IE 5.5 Service Pack 2 or to the latest version, IE 6.0, and select full install.

Visit Microsoft's Web site for Internet Explorer,, for more information on downloading the latest browser updates for your computer.

HOLIDAY OVERLOAD. Last minute shopping took its toll last week on the

Customers looking to send friends and family members a free electronic greeting card were unable to visit the site to do so.

A message posted at the site stated simply "Our apologies. We are currently experiencing heavy traffic on our site and are unable to allow additional visits at this time."

A Hallmark spokesman said the Web site had experienced traffic more than three times the usual holiday level. Part of the increase likely stems from the move by American Greetings to start charging for electronic greetings earlier this month. Former free e-card site Blue Mountain requires users to pay an annual subscription.

The Hallmark Web site was up and running again last Saturday, so outages have been sporadic. If you have trouble, a spokesman suggested waiting a while and trying again.

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