Checkout Time?

Christmas could kill some stand-alone e-tailers now that big retailers have their websites humming

To understand how drastically the landscape of the online shopping world has shifted since holiday season 1999, you could do worse than pay a visit to based in San Francisco. Incongruities abound. Here we are at a converted warehouse (major points for geek chic), but it's in the heart of Fisherman's Wharf, Middle America's greatest open-air tourist trap, miles from the hipster hangouts. Inside are all the signs of an unstuffy start-up--pets roaming the halls, people with green hair. Yet what gets them really jazzed is flipping the switch that signals a virtual blue-light special.

The dotcom world...

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