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Why jingle bells ring in August

It's only August, but retailers, online and off, are making preparations to be ready for the hoped-for flood of shoppers buying holiday gifts.

2 min read
It's only August, but that flurry of activity in the consumer-oriented Internet commerce means Christmas is coming. Retailers, online and off, are making preparations to be ready for the hoped-for flood of shoppers buying holiday gifts.

In part, it's a sign of the Net maturing as a consumer shopping medium--the retail calendar is governed by consumer buying habits and most people spend more at the end of the year on holiday gifts. As more regular people use the Internet, e-commerce becomes cyclical too.

"If you want to be on America Online by Christmas, you've got to have a deal in works by now," said Scott Smith, e-commerce analyst at Current Analysis. "You need to execute on promotional deals."

Take Amazon.com, for example, which last week bought shopping service Junglee and PlanetAll, which has a set of Web-based utilities that works with most personal organizers.

Even before the latest deals, Amazon.com clearly aimed to have its new online music store running smoothly by fall. Junglee touts more than 15 million items with its Junglee Shopping Guide, which makes it easier for consumers to search the Internet for items.

Genni Combes, Internet retail analyst at brokerage Hambrecht & Quist, thinks Junglee won'tmake much revenue impact this Christmas because of the time it takes to integrate the technologies.

"Amazon is investing in infrastructure and hiring a significant number of customer service reps to be sure quality of service is high moving into Christmas," Combes said.

Kate Delhagen, director of Forrester's online retail strategies service, calls recent e-commerce activity "preholiday madness."

"The first stage is for the provider of online commerce to gather interesting new assets to get into place to take advantage of the crucial fourth quarter holiday season," Delhagen said, mentioning the Yahoo and Amazon.com moves but also Macy's current effort to boost its existing online store to 250,000 items before the fall season.

And she thinks Hollywood Entertainment's July 31 purchase of Reel.com for $100 million is another prime example. With the acquisition, Hollywood Entertainment, which runs video-rental chain Hollywood Video, adds the Internet video store to its stable.

"A long list of players is getting it together in time for the September-October selling season," Delhagen added.

Last year Yahoo's holiday shopping moves included a deal, coming belatedly in late November, to use Junglee's comparative online shopping technology to help shoppers find items in Yahoo's Visa Shopping Guide.