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NRF: Online retailers report rise in holiday buying

WASHINGTON , D.C. — The 2004 Shop.org/BizRate.com Online Holiday Mood Study found that 91 percent of merchants have seen online growth this holiday season, with 17 percent experiencing sales more than twice as high as a year ago, according to the National Retail Federation.

Due to the last-minute habits of many shoppers this year, retailers are beefing up staffing levels and shipping programs to ensure that orders arrive in time for Christmas, stated the NRF. This year, more than one-fourth (28 percent) of merchants will guarantee Christmas Day delivery for items ordered with standard shipping on or after December 20, the Monday before Christmas. In addition, nearly half of retailers (46 percent) plan to offer express shipping promotions the week of Dec. 19, according to the study.

"Online retailers are turning their focus away from the early birds to the procrastinators," said Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org. "Internet retailers know that their customers want to shop at the last minute and have stepped up to the plate with a variety of shipping options this year, all of which ensure the on-time arrival of merchandise."

According to the survey, the most successful Web site feature for driving sales has been a gift idea center (56 percent), where consumers can browse for suggested gifts by gender, price, or category. Other popular Web site features have included a "suggested items" page (32 percent), clearance or sale page (32 percent), and a featured sale item page (31 percent). Again this year, free shipping with conditions has been the most successful marketing promotion among merchants (60 percent).

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