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Online Retailers Drive Relief Efforts

Almost two weeks after terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, America's biggest online retailers were still allocating prime selling space to the American Red Cross and other relief-related charities.

The home pages of Wal-Mart, The Home Depot, Sears, Roebuck and Co., Target Corp., J.C. Penney, Safeway, Lowe's, Macy's, Drugstore.com, Circuit City, Amazon.com, Saks Fifth Avenue, Payless ShoeSource, Talbots, IKEA and J. Crew all had links to the Red Cross.

What's more, a counter on Amazon.com claimed that as of Friday, visitors to the site had donated more than $6.5 million to the Red Cross.

Some merchants also began promoting patriotic merchandise and saying they would donate the profits to relief charities.

For example, apparel cataloger Lands' End for several days last week promoted polo shirts embroidered with the American flag. Profits from shirt sales were donated to the Red Cross.

Even after the shirt promotion was taken down, the cataloger still devoted the upper right corner of its home page at landsend.com to the Red Cross.

Lands' End also donated “several thousand” Red Cross logoed shirts for New York City recovery volunteers, said spokeswoman Beverly Holmes.

Holmes declined to say how many flag polos were sold.

Retailers, manufacturers and consumers have also responded to an appeal by eBay.com to donate products to Auction for America, an ambitious plan to raise $100 million in 100 days for victims, their families and communities affected by the Sept. 11 attacks.

Early corporate sign-ups include The Bombay Co., Omaha Steaks, West Marine, Palm, JC Whitney, Outlet Computer, MovieGoods, BargainBuilder, EconoZone, ABT Electronics and Restaurant.com.

“The response from the eBay community has been fantastic,” said Kevin Pursglove, spokesman at eBay, San Jose, CA. “Many sellers are donating items for the Auction for America, and bidders are indicating their willingness to bid on items for a worthy cause.

“We now have about 12,000 items listed [though] this doesn't include the merchandise sold,” he said. “But it is too early to offer any financial data.”

Proceeds from the auctions will support nine to 11 charities, including the September 11th Fund, established by United Way and The New York Community Trust. The eBay Foundation is donating the first $1 million to the effort.

Among the retailers authorized to handle donations to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund is 1-800-Flowers.com Inc., Westbury, NY.

Besides the online appeal, the retailer has offered the use of its stores, call centers, delivery trucks and other facilities to the affected cities. The Web site, however, underpins this whole philanthropic effort.

As a mark of respect, some retailers last week also temporarily cut back on marketing.

Numerous marketers also refused interviews with iMarketing News reporters, saying they believe it is inappropriate to talk of marketing plans right now.

Ken Young, director of communications at 1-800-Flowers.com, said his company had postponed the mailing of a catalog by a week.

“We're focused on things like getting linked with the Red Cross or calling [other] retailers to help out,” Young said. “We're all focused on those kinds of things.

“The regular day-to-day business hasn't seemed as important because it's not,” he said. “We know at some point we have to go [back] into business but that may not be yet. Everybody just wants to be able to do something.”

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