For a decade now, online retailers have increasingly grown their sales to the point they now rival traditional brick and mortar establishments. Let's face it, it's just easier to shop online if you have a computer, an Internet connection and a desire to avoid crowds. You can sit there with a mug full of cider (or vodka) in your pajamas (or naked) and purchase gifts for your family (or members of your swingers club). It's easy and, dare we say it, fun. Oh, we dare.
But not all online retailers are created equal. Sure, anyone can grab some nerds and throw an e-commerce Web site online, but that doesn't make it good. With the thousands of Web sites competing for eyeballs and dollars, you have to set yourself apart and it's hard to know just who is doing it right and who is making a mess. Fortunately for you, we've taken some of the pain out of it and put together our list of the best 10 online retailers.
This list does not include Amazon.com because, let's face it, they are the granddaddy of e-tail and still lead the pack. This list is the best of the rest.
10. & 9. Cabelas.com and EddieBauer.com When I was a kid, my father used to LOVE him some Cabelas. Being an outdoorsman, he regularly bought things from their sizable mail-order catalog. He also loved Eddie Bauer. Well, if my dad were still around, he would most certainly be ordering some outerwear, fishing gear or a good canvas bag (he had a LOT of them) from one of these establishments. Both Web sites are very well organized and simple to use, both keys for getting your shopping done efficiently. If you have an outdoor lover in the family, these sites are as good as they get.
8. & 7. HomeDepot.com and Lowes.com Home improvement and the Web may seem like an odd marriage, but for giants Home Depot and Lowe's, it really works. Home Depot automatically recognizes your location and conveniently searches for products at your store. Lowe's lets you set your location as well. Both give you tons of options for products and comparison features, making it easy to put together a plan to wreck your kitchen cheaply and easily before calling a contractor to do it the right way... or just having one of these two do it for you. Yeah, they have that, too.
6. Sears Seriously, Sears. Growing up, I will admit that I used to look through the "Wish Book" (a.k.a. the Sears catalog) at all the worthless crap my parents would be best advised not to get me. I'd dog ear pages and craftily hand it to my mom, hoping she'd be dumb enough to buy me that regulation sized air hockey table (whose regulations?). Also, my crush as a young kid, Kristy McNichol (hubba hubba), was often featured on the pages. For a while, Sears was sort of dying, but they have made quite the recovery and their Web site is a great example of how to do things the right way. It's easy to use and has local pick-up options. It may not be the "Wish Book," but it's damn close.
5. & 4. AbercrombieandFitch.com and American Eagle Outfitters Abercrombie and Fitch is probably one of the most annoying clothing stores on the planet with loud music, club lighting (a friend of ours dubbed the experience there as "shubbing" -- part shopping, part clubbing) and half-naked dude models (unless you are into that sort of thing), so I was shocked to find their Web site is simple and beautifully well designed. Ditto for American Eagle Outfitters, another frustrating physical store with an awesome online presence. Oh, and if you really want to look at bare-chested models, they have the images on the Web site too, pervert.
3. Staples.com Of all the brick and mortar stores that are also online, it's hard to imagine that one of the innovators when it comes to the Web is an office-products store, but it's true. Besides very organized site links and free shipping on all orders, Staples is known for its great deals. During the holidays, they are almost always the first, running "Black Friday" deals as early as October.
2. BarnesandNoble.com I wasn't expecting much when I visited this Web site, but I was pleasantly surprised. It's super fast, has a massive search engine and gives you a simple option allowing you to pick your book up at a nearby store, assuming it is in stock. It's also a really clean and organized Web site, making for a painless shopping experience.
1. Zappos.com Zappos is the best online clothing retailer, period. Not only do they have a massive selection, but an extremely liberal return policy and free shipping on all orders, all the time, which includes free shipping FOR RETURNS. Their prices also happen to be very good and they consistently rank well on best places to work lists.
Truthfully, there were more good online retailers than bad and I felt like some of these below were worthy of a mention.
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Williams-Sonoma (group of sites includes Pottery Barn and West Elm) Crate and Barrel (includes CB2 for modern furniture and Land of Nod for kids) Overstock.com -- we may hate the holiday jingle and the "big o" (um, orgasm much?), but the site is good. NewEgg.com -- probably the best computer shopping online Buy.com -- organizes by groups like "gadget geek" or "foodie" and via traditional categories
See the 10 worst online retailers.