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Sears tooling toward Internet expansion

The behemoth retailer is preparing to bulk up an already sizeable Net presence by more than doubling the amount of tools it currently offers online sometime before Christmas, Sears.com's project director says.

Sears is preparing to bulk up an already sizeable Internet presence by more than doubling the amount of tools it currently offers online sometime before Christmas, the company said.

In another move that signals Sears's growing commitment to online expansion, the retail behemoth announced this week that it has hired BroadVision, an e-business applications provider, to streamline its site.

"We want to make it easier to do business with Sears than with anyone else," said Andy Wetmore, project director for Sears.com. "[BroadVision] has the tools to help give our customers a better shopping experience."

At a time when Bloomberg estimates Sears holds roughly 35 percent of the online appliance market, the retailer shows no signs of slowing its expansion of online goods and services, or its quest to become what Wetmore called the "definitive online source for the home."

Sears now offers 3,500 Craftsman tools online, but that number will double in the next several months, according to a company spokesperson.

Sears began selling major appliances online in May, and the traffic that generated on Sears.com catapulted it from 66th to 39th place among the top 50 shopping sites, according to statistics compiled by research firm MediaMetrix.

In April, the company introduced PartsDirect, a site that features more than 4.2 million parts for household items such as appliances, power tools, and home electronics.

"If they keep growing, this could be the beginning of a new Sears catalog--minus the paper," said Clay Ryder, an analyst at Redwood City-based Zona Research, referring to the discontinued Sears' mail-order catalog that shoppers turned to for much of the century.

Wetmore said that Sears has no plans of putting company's entire inventory online but that rising profits and growing interest has encouraged company officials to expand the site.

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