A Stroll On The Cybermall - benefits of online shopping

A Stroll On The Cybermall - benefits of online shoppingByline: Beth Karlin Editor-In-Chief

This month, I decided to take a detour into cyberspace where - despite the bomb - online shopping is still going strong. I found out just how strong during a recent gift-buying spree that also showed some lingering problems.

Developers of retail real estate over-reacted to the threat from online a few years back. But they should not be complacent. Internet sales could reach $100 billion this year.

So what's sending shoppers to the Web? Time and (in most states) sales taxes (a fact shopping center owners are lobbying to change). The disadvantages: shipping costs (that can exceed the avoided taxes) and not being able to see and feel the gift you buy.

Increasingly, clicks and bricks are becoming integrated. You can browse online and ship it out directly, or go to the store and buy it and maybe throw in a little something extra like I did at Williams-Sonoma. (I added a set of ice cream bowls ($12) along with their requested Teflon scoop ($22). I took the wrapped gift with me so there was no delivery charge. And if my friends don't like the bowls, they can simply take them to their nearest Williams-Sonoma and return them.

David, a 29 year-old journalist, and Dana, a 30-year-old public relations specialist, got me started on this quest. I wanted to buy them a little something for their engagement and asked where they were registered. I browsed at their online wish list, but wasn't ready to buy yet.

Meanwhile, I had to buy an engagement present for a cousin in Chicago and a baby gift for my friend Maria. Maria was very specific, directing friends to two online-only retailers - and I chose baby jeans ($14.95) and a jacket ($20). No tax and free-shipping. A bargain.

This sort of thing probably gives mall owners the willies. I didn't really have a choice of where to shop if I wanted to get her what she asked for. I suppose I could have looked online and then tried to get the merchandise in a mall, but that seemed like a lot of work.

At Crate & Barrel, I found my cousin's registry in two clicks. I scrolled through a lot of red "fulfilled" labels before I found something they still needed in my price range - a set of wine glasses ($28), to be exact. You can view the product (listed in categories - flatware, stemware, etc.) and determine how many of any given item they still need. After delivery charges of $6.50, gift-wrapping cost of $3.50 and $2.13 in tax (13 states charge tax for remote purchases), the total was a surprise ($40.13 for a $28 purchase). But my time was worth it.

Even when gift-givers go to the store, it doesn't always mean business. David and Dana told me about a relative who went to Williams-Sonoma for a $260 Cuisinart on their list. It was out of stock, but, "don't worry," said the salesclerk. "You can get it online at for $199.95." Which is what the relative did. And Dana immediately made use of the edit function on her wish list, jettisoning the retail-priced model.


Location: Cyberspace Size: Infinity Sales: $75 billion in 2002, up 50% from 2001 (Source: and Forrester Research Stores: Crate & Barrel, Williams-Sonoma, Bloomingdales,,, etc., etc., etc.
Safe Shopping

Almost everywhere we shop-from the toy store at the mall to an online linen warehouse-we are asked to provide personal information. Some stores ask for a zip code or phone number at the checkout. Online sites may demand more,

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Do you love the convenience of online shopping but worry about who might be grabbing your credit card information? The truth is, using your credit card anywhere puts you at risk. Anyone who handles your credit information is a potential thief. But the Internet somehow instills greater fear. As we'll see,
Do you derive pleasure from pressing innumerable buttons on your touch-tone keypad just to get an answer to a simple question? How about logging on to a Web site and clicking aimlessly around, deluged with pop-up ads, to learn more about your long-distance account? Do you get a real kick out of being a target of cross-promotion?
Shopping Online Safely, There can be real advantages to shopping online: Prices are sometimes cheaper and product selection greater; it's often easier to find information about a particular product; parking isn't an issue; and the Internet is open 24 hours a day. But online shopping also has inherent risks and disadvantages,