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first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake Still, online merchants have increased incentives in the final week to seal what they expect will be a strong season. This week, Bluefly.com, which sells discounted designer clothing, is offering an extra 20 percent off each day on different apparel, from sweaters to outerwear. Harryanddavid.com, a gourmet food retailer, is offering shoppers a deal to buy one item and get the second at half price. For the 39-day period that ended Dec. 9, nontravel spending online surged 23 percent to $12.75 billion from a year ago, according to comScore Networks Inc. That’s a bit below the Internet research company’s forecast for a 24 percent gain for the season, but comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni said that this week – the busiest for online retailers – should make up for any shortfall. While the busiest day for online retailers last year was Dec. 14, Fulgoni expects it may be pushed this year to Thursday or Friday because of the increasing reliability of online retailers and shoppers’ confidence in them. According to the most recent data from Nielsen/NetRatings Inc., an Internet research firm, online shopping trips to more than 100 e-commerce sites shot up 33 percent from a year ago for the week that ended Dec. 4. Yahoo! Shopping reported Tuesday that traffic has increased from 45 percent to 55 percent since the day after Thanksgiving, beating expectations for growth of 25 percent to 30 percent. NEW YORK – Online retailers stepped up discounting ahead of the deadline this week for most free shipping of Christmas gifts with guarantee of standard delivery. But they’re not panicking. Overall, the holiday 2005 shopping season is shaping up well. Meanwhile, traditional store owners are waiting for the final shopping week before Christmas to see how their sales turn out. “This week, consumers can expect to be hearing from retailers reminding them of all the strong promotions that they are offering,” said Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation in Washington. Online retailers, though, are “going to be pleasantly surprised; the level of optimism is quite high,” he said. Because of a spike in gasoline prices, online retailers – like their counterparts in brick-and-mortar stores – jump-started the season with more generous bargains and free shipping than they offered a year ago. But their anxiety has receded along with the price of fuel in recent weeks. Shipping giants Memphis-based FedEx Corp. and Atlanta-based UPS Inc. have benefited from the popularity of online shopping, though there are no firm figures on how many of their packages are headed to online shoppers. On what is usually its busiest day of the year, FedEx delivered 8.5 million packages Monday, a 5 percent increase over the same day last year. Norm Black, spokesman at UPS, said the company is still projecting that it will carry more than 20 million packages on its peak day of Dec. 20. Last year, it projected it would carry about 20 million packages on its peak day, he said. Meanwhile, at brick-and-mortar stores, retailers face more modest gains. According to Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers, sales in November and December for the 75 retailers he tracks will be up anywhere from 3 percent to 3.5 percent on the year. The tally is based on same-store sales or sales at stores open at least one year. While traditional stores depend on the final days before Christmas for sales, online retailers hope to extend their season as well, with many sweetening their shipping offers next week. Bluefly.com will be offering a free two-day delivery on items ordered from Thursday through next Wednesday. “We did it last year, but it was a smaller period,” said Melissa Payner, chief executive of Bluefly.com. Associated Press Writer Woody Baird in Memphis and Harry Weber in Atlanta contributed to this report. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

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