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Yahoo promotes big sale

Amid the post-holiday retail doldrums, the company kicks off a sale that includes everything from online tax-preparation fees to discounts at retailers on its site.

Amid the post-holiday retail doldrums, Yahoo kicked off a three-day sale Wednesday that included everything from online tax-preparation fees to discounts at dozens of retailers on its site.

Nearly 1,000 retailers pitched in with some sort of sale item, from discounted airplane tickets to $75 off an HP notebook. Yahoo also offered discounts on its own paid services, such as waiving transaction fees for its proprietary payment service and giving 50 percent discounts on e-mail storage and domain registration.

"We wanted to do something that retailers get really excited about," said Jennifer Dulski, director of commerce marketing for Yahoo. "It's nice for us to be able to boost ourselves during what's not normally a big spike for us."

Big-name apparel companies with sales are Ann Taylor, The Gap, Brooks Brothers and Neiman Marcus, while Sony, Compaq Computer, OfficeMax and Circuit City are offering discounts in Yahoo's electronics department.

Retail sales during the first quarter are traditionally slow as consumers curtail spending following the holidays, and the general economic downturn has many retailers and manufacturers struggling to increase their sales.

The latest economic figures from the Commerce Department indicate that businesses are continuing to struggle, with retail sales in February growing less than expected. Instead of the expected 0.9 percent, retail crept up only 0.3 percent for the month to post a 2.9 percent gain from a year ago.

The sales fever aimed at goosing first-quarter numbers isn't limited to Yahoo, with many other Web retailers offering sales or discounts on shipping. Amazon.com and electronics retailer Buy.com now offer free shipping on most purchases of $99 or more. Overstock.com offers free shipping to first-time customers, and for a limited time on items in its home-decor department. And Bestbuy.com, the Internet unit of brick-and-mortar electronics chain Best Buy, is offering free shipping on all home theater products, such as TVs and DVD players.

Online travel, one of the Web's best-performing sectors, isn't immune to retail's annual meltdown. Many of the top airlines are promoting fare-saver deals.

Yahoo, with its revenue and earnings declining due to the falloff in online advertising, has been promoting its paid services and trying to broaden its sources of revenue. Earlier this year, Yahoo began charging customers to search a private database of research documents.

The company has also been promoting its shopping and auction services. Last year, the company began charging for its auctions and its payment service for the first time. It also revamped its shopping site and introduced an area for used and overstocked goods.

However, Yahoo's auction listings fell by as much as 90 percent after Yahoo introduced fees. Meanwhile, the company went through a management shake-up and a restructuring that led to 400 layoffs.