Wired Woman

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The Independent Culture
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 friends and relatives - and you've even sent a few that had something to do with work. But there is much more to the Net than e-mail and surfing the Web. Something important. Something that might change your life. We're talking shopping. Online 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 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 no way you're going to have a chance to look for one in time. What do you do? Have a quick scan of the personals column to see if there are any boyfriend replacements on the market?

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.

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 might 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 rapidly 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.