wired woman

Shopping online is here at last, and it's not only easy, it's safe. So switch on, trust the Net to take care of your credit details - and enjoy.
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Right, so you've persuaded your boss to give you that Internet connection and since then you've been happily sending and receiving e- mail to distant friends and relatives - and you've even sent a few that had something to do with work. Wonderful stuff, e-mail

But there is much more to the Net than e-mail and surfing the Web. Something vital that just might change your life. We're talking shopping.

Imagine this. You're so busy at work that you hardly have time to go for a pee. Lunch break usually means a quick trip to the company canteen or the nearest sandwich bar. You glance in your diary one frantic afternoon and are horrified to realise that your boyfriend's birthday has snuck up on you again. You haven't bought him a present and there is absolutely no way you're going to have a chance to look for one in time. What do you do? Eye the letter opener on your desk, wondering if it's sharp enough to slash your wrists? Scan the personal column for a boyfriend replacement?

Before you do anything drastic, grab your credit card and make a dash for the information superhighway, because shopping on the Net is now a reality. You can literally shop till you drop without leaving your desk.

For example, just type www. innovations.co.uk into your Web browser and you can search the Innovations Online Catalogue for a quick gift that will get you off the hook. Innovations Online is part of the Burton Group's (www.burton.co.uk) ambitious plans to expand Internet shopping beyond the realm of books and CDs. They have just launched an online shop for their Evans stores and soon you will also be able to shop electronically at Burton Menswear, Top Shop, Top Man and Principles.

Shopping on the Internet is easy. At Evans (www.evans.ltd.co.uk) you just browse through pages of clothing and accessories, clicking on items you want to purchase. They go into a shopping basket that keeps a running total of the amount you've spent. When you're done browsing you head for the checkout. Fill in a form providing your credit card details and address (or the address you want the items sent to if it's a gift) hit the Buy button and hey presto! The merchandise will be on its way.

Now you may have a few doubts about sending your credit card number into cyberspace, but fear not. It's a lot safer than giving it out to some stranger over the phone, and you probably do that all the time.

With Christmas approaching, the idea of shopping from your computer could save you from having to elbow your way through a crowded high street, arms weighed down with bags and boxes. But be warned, online shopping just might become a habit that will max out your Mastercard.