Online retailers stepped up discounting ahead of the deadline this week for most free shipping of Christmas gifts with guarantee of standard...

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NEW YORK — Online retailers stepped up discounting ahead of the deadline this week for most free shipping of Christmas gifts with guarantee of standard delivery. But they’re not panicking: Overall, the holiday 2005 shopping season is shaping up well.

Meanwhile, traditional storeowners are waiting for the final shopping week before Christmas to see how their sales turn out.

“This week, consumers can expect to be hearing from retailers reminding them of all the strong promotions that they are offering,” said Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation in Washington. Online retailers, though, are “going to be pleasantly surprised. The level of optimism is quite high.”

Online retailers — like their brick-and-mortar counterparts — jump-started the season with more generous bargains and free shipping than a year ago because of a spike in gasoline prices. But their anxiety has receded along with the price of fuel in recent weeks.

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Still, online merchants have increased incentives in the final stretch to seal what they expect will be a strong season. Bluefly.com, which sells discounted designer clothing, is offering an extra 20 percent off each day on different apparel. At Harryanddavid.com, the gourmet-food retailer, shoppers can buy one item and get the second at half-price.

For the 39-day period ended Dec. 9, non-travel spending online surged 23 percent to $12.75 billion from a year ago, according to comScore Networks, which had predicted a 24 percent gain for the season.

According to the most recent data from Nielsen/NetRatings, an Internet research firm, online shopping trips to more than 100 e-commerce sites shot up 33 percent for the week ended Dec. 4 from a year ago.

Yahoo Shopping said Tuesday that traffic has risen from 45 percent to 55 percent since the day after Thanksgiving, beating expectations for growth of 25 percent to 30 percent.

Shipping giants FedEx and UPS have benefited from the popularity of online shopping, though neither knows for sure how many packages are headed to online shoppers.

On what is usually its busiest day of the year, FedEx delivered 8.5 million packages Monday, a 5 percent increase over the same day last year.

Norm Black, a spokesman at UPS, said the company is projecting that it will carry more than 20 million packages on its peak day of Dec. 20.

Associated Press reporters Woody Baird in Memphis and Harry Weber in Atlanta contributed to this report.