Game Boy Advance -- a handheld electronic toy from Nintendo -- has topped my daughter's wish list for the last six months. With her own savings and a parental contribution, she recently purchased the toy at a discount through an eBay auction. Other Internet resources also offer affordable options.
In fact, there are several online shopping portals that compare vendor/retail prices at a variety of outlets. Those services are helpful for researching the best deals over the Internet or at traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Those outlets include Shopzilla.com, PriceRunner.com, Shopping.com, Pricegrabber.com and NexTag.com.
Online comparison shopping is a popular trend, even with consumers who are uncomfortable making online purchases. Traditionalists use the Internet to compare retail prices and then make their actual purchases at standard stores. In fact, 70 percent of online shoppers browse through multiple Internet channels before every purchase, according to a recent survey from Shopzilla, an online index of 30 million products at over 50,000 stores. But for 64 percent of shoppers surveyed, comparison shopping is a time-consuming process involving multiple visits to four sites on average.
Overstock.com and Other Outlets
Overstock.com features excess inventory. For less than wholesale prices, Over stock.com purchases merchandise from manufacturers and sells those items at discounts of 40 percent to 80 percent below standard retail prices. In addition to partnership agreements with name-brand companies, Overstock.com acquires canceled orders from stores and items from companies that are downsizing or moving. Merchandise includes furniture, books, clothing and jewelry and other items.
In addition to its regular discounts, Overstock.com offers special clearance bins. A special page on the site features bins of books, music and movies for $1 to $5. Another bin features an assortment of bedding, shoes, accessories, jewelry, electronics and house wares for $25 and less. And regardless of the size or weight of your order, shipping is always $2.95.
www.shopitome.com (Shop It To Me) works like a personal shopper. You provide a profile of your shopping tastes (size and favorite labels), and Shop It To Me will find the lowest sale price from its pool of retailers. That list includes Nordstrom, Ann Taylor Loft, Kenneth Cole, Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and other top stores. You can elect to receive daily, weekly or semi-weekly e-mails alerting you when the items from your wish list are on sale.
www.restaurant.com sells discounts for restaurants in your area. For instance, after typing in my area code, I received a list of 212 restaurants within 15 miles of my home, including hot spots in South Beach, Coral Gables and the Brickell Avenue district. At those eateries, Restaurant.com charges $10 for $25 gift certificates and $3 for $10 certificates. They are good for purchasing meals. Restrictions vary from restaurant to restaurant and are detailed on the website. One South Beach eatery, for example, requires a minimal food purchase of $35 and at another restaurant, the certificates can't be used for early-bird dining.
www.drugstore.com offers discounts on beauty and personal care products, vitamins, prescriptions and other items typically found in brick-and-mortar stores. Drugstore.com partners with Rite Aid and GNC, which sells vitamins and other health aids. Product savings range from 20 percent to 40 percent. Shipping is free for orders of $25 or more.
Of course, due to security concerns, many consumers are wary about online transactions. For that market, www.billmelater.com (bill me later) offers a solution. Through agreements with a wide range of retailers, Bill Me Later enables you to shop online, but receive hard copy bills through regular mail so that you don't have to use your credit card on cyberspace. According to a customer service rep, the merchandise is shipped as soon as you make the purchase, with the bill arriving later. Bill Me Later has financing agreements with Wal mart.com, Sports Authority, Linens-N-Things, Petco.Com and other well-known online merchants.