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Retailers Throw Full Online Weight Behind Red Cross

A week after terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, America's biggest online retailers are still allocating prime selling space to the American Red Cross.

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

Some also have messages of grief and sympathy from their CEOs.

One of the retailers authorized to handle donations to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund is 1-800-Flowers.com Inc., Westbury, NY. It offers options of $10, $25, $50, $75 and $100.

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 are also temporarily cutting back on marketing. 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.”

At Grey Direct, which handles e-mail marketing for a host of clients, one undisclosed retailer has held off on a campaign.

“They pulled some direct mail and e-mail on a temporary basis,” said Larry Kimmel, CEO of Grey Direct, New York.

Campaign pullbacks are an expected fallout of this unfortunate incident, which adds fuel to the fire of an already slowing economy.

“We can't predict what the economy or the consumer psychology or state of mind will be on this,” 1-800-Flowers.com's Young said. “But from our point of view, we're just fortunate that we've been around for 25 years, so we've had to navigate through both good economies and difficult.

“So whatever the situation may turn out to be,” he said, “we're confident we can work through it.”

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