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The European Web Site launched this week by a consortium of computing, financing, consulting, and shipping firms featuring consumer products from more than twenty European retailers may turn out to be the holiday season’s hottest Web site. Consumers around the world will be able to shop online among major European department stores to small European providers of specialty goods. The site features a search engine function to help match gifts to the profile of friends and family. ‘e-Christmas’ is multi-lingual and provides integrated multi-currency pricing at the point of sale. VISA and MasterCard are both participating in the initiative to educate and increase awareness of the global e-commerce market.

More than 20 European retailers and consumer goods companies, together with leading computing, financing, consulting and shipping businesses, launched the seasonal Internet shopping site called e-Christmas.

The holiday Web site ( aims to transform the way consumers around the world make their purchases by offering unique European goods online.

From their desktops, shoppers around the world can buy holiday gifts normally available only in Europe. Gifts vary from the mainstream to the exotic, while the retailers range from major department stores to small providers of specialty goods. New Yorkers, for instance, will be able to browse through toys from Hamley’s in London, while a shopper in Madrid can select from the finest handmade Swiss clocks.

Retail expert, James Roper of IMRG, an independent retail analyst firm, said, “e-Christmas will appeal to anyone who is pressed for time or needs to buy gifts for friends in all areas. And it’s a great source of fresh ideas for shoppers needing inspiration on what to give those `hard to buy for’ family members.”

A new “search engine” technology makes it easy to enter details about a relative or a friend, and receive suggestions from the site on which gifts match their profile. Users specify cost and the country of destination, among other details, and the site retrieves a short list of appropriate presents that fits their profile in a matter of seconds.

Buyers then review the list before clicking on the items that they want to purchase, which are added to a virtual shopping basket and can be accessed at any time via an on-screen icon to check the selected gifts and the total cost. Once the buyer has chosen all their gifts, they can pay using Visa or MasterCard credit cards with encryption software that ensures all card and payment information remains highly secure.

As the number of days before Christmas decreases, shoppers will be made aware of the delivery date of their gifts and the different shipping options available. Gifts will be delivered anywhere in the world by UPS, one of the world’s largest international delivery services. The e-Christmas site also provides integrated multi-currency pricing at the point of sale and offers a single high-standard of customer service for shoppers from all countries. Languages on the site include English, Dutch, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

About the e-Christmas project:

e-Christmas is an independent European initiative in electronic commerce inspired by a group of electronic trade organizations and supported by business partners in retailing, payments, management consulting and information technology. e-Christmas’ two primary objectives are to educate and excite consumers, retailers and merchants about the benefits of online retailing and to increase levels of awareness, knowledge and understanding among European businesses in order to help them retain their competitive position in the global electronic commerce market.

Included among the participants in the e-Christmas initiative are key partners Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Europay/MasterCard, KPMG, Visa and UPS.

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