E-tailers take on returns, offer discounts

Online retailers seem ready to take part in the next round of the holiday shopping tradition: gift returns and after-Christmas sales.Bargain bins went up online just as the Yule log was burning out.

Online retailers seem ready to take part in the next round of the holiday shopping tradition: gift returns and after-Christmas sales.

Bargain bins went up online just as the Yule log was burning out. At eToys Inc. (Nasdaq: ETYS), a holiday clearance promised 75 percent off toys, video games and books. Both KBKids.com and Toysrus.com (NYSE: TOY) are touting new "millennium" stores.

America Online Inc. (NYSE: AOL) has already set up a Clearance Sale section for its merchants, touting post-holiday sales at dozens of stores. Microsoft Corp.'s (Nasdaq: MSFT) MSN has also gathered together links to post-holiday bargains.

Online retailers have also been gearing up for that other big holiday tradition -– returning unwanted gifts.

Some retailers began putting mechanisms in place before the holidays. AltaVista's Shopping.com increased staffing 50 percent in order to prepare for holiday returns, according to Mark Steinberg, director of retail at the Shopping.com store.

Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) and EddieBauer.com both placed links high on their page instructing shoppers how to redeem gift certificates. Both companies also offer detailed guides on how to return some of those gifts that are just not the thing shoppers were looking for this Christmas.

Returns to online stores, like catalog returns, can be complicated. Since many online retailers outsource fulfillment to other companies, the items might need to be returned to a different address than they were shipped from, requiring shoppers to call for an address or phone number.

Amazon's site says the store will refund gifts through Jan. 31, and issue the recipient a check.

So-called click-and-mortar companies, which have both online and offline store fronts, are touting their stores as an option for unhappy recipients.

"That's the whole benefit of our model," said KBKids CEO Srikant Srinivasan.

Reuters contributed to this story.