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Convenience draws one shopper online


© St. Petersburg Times, published December 14, 1998

Shopping on the Internet can be convenient, Kathy Brannon says. It also can be slow.

The St. Petersburg homemaker ventured online for the first time this year, and she started checking out the shopping scene.

"I'm not very experienced at it," Brannon said. "A lot of it is learning. I'm not familiar with all the sites. I don't know if one is that much better than another."

She is one of the millions of newcomers flocking to the Internet, an increase in users that experts say will help boost online sales during the holiday season to more than double last year's total.

So far, though, Brannon has spent most of her time online browsing, for everything from household goods to clothes to toys. She bought only a couple of items online, including a cutting board that she found online for about 40 percent less than the same item at a local store.

She has found online prices both higher and lower than what local malls and retailers offer, with shipping and handling charges sometimes making the difference. Price, though, is not necessarily her priority.

"I wouldn't mind spending a little bit more for the convenience of not having to leave the house," said Brannon, who added that she likes the idea of being able to shop any time and finding special toys online instead of having to drive far to find them.

Road traffic is one thing; online traffic another.

"I don't know if it's my computer or online in general, but downloading pictures to see what you're buying, that takes a little bit of time," she said. "That kind of slows the process down."

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