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AUCTIONS
QXL
www.qxl.com
QXL is the biggest online auction house in Europe and its online tour makes a great introduction to the mysterious world of bidding online. There's a good selection of goods available on the site and it's always bustling with activity - the Holidays section is always worth a visit.
The Real Hollywood Online Auction
store.universalstudios.com/usacution
Universal Studios auctions off props and costumes from its TV programmes and films at this excellent site. You'll also find plenty of signed photos for sale and unusual items such as the pant suit actually worn by Marlene Dietrich.
Sandafayre
www.sandafayre.com
Sandafayre is the world's largest online auction for stamps. The site might look a tad dull but it should be your first port of call if you're looking for first editions and postal rarities. Every week Sandafayre holds huge auctions selling everything philatelic from single stamps through to valuable collections.
Sothebys
sothebys.amazon.com
Sothebys has teamed up with Amazon to offer some very special online auctions. You'll find unusual and rare lots here including old books and manuscripts and entertainment and sports memorabilia. The online guides are well worth reading if you're looking for an introduction to the art of collecting.
Vectis Auctions
www.vectis.co.uk
Vectis specialises in online auctions of collectible toys. If you've been hoarding away old Corgi and Matchbox cars or ancient Hornby train sets this is the perfect place to get rid of them. You can even look back on previous auctions to see what kind of prices these collectible toys are going for.
Rating : 4/5
Yahoo! Auctions
uk.auctions.yahoo.com/uk
There's a phenomenal amount of stuff for sale on Yahoo's person-to-person auction site and they're a mix of UK and US-based items. The site is extremely busy and it's free to use for buyers and sellers. Yahoo also runs lots of charity auctions, which are well worth a visit.
Auctions.com
www.auctions.com
You'll find some unusual lots for auction on this site including historical signed photos and bizarre items including an Amish wash tub. Since it's a US-based site the prices are all listed in dollars but it's well worth a browse simply for the variety of goods on offer.
BidnBuy
www.bidnbuy.com
From here you can jump off to two separate sites. Buyer2Seller is a person-to-person auction, while BidnBuy auctions off computer products and peripherals. The site is based in Ireland but they will ship to anywhere in the European Community.
Bullnet Auctions
www.bullnet.co.uk/auctions
This site mixes business auctions with person-to-person sales. It's free to buy and sell in the person-to-person auctions. The site gives you useful background information on any seller you might want to deal with and tells you if they've successfully sold from the site before.
BuyStuff
www.buystuff.co.uk
The busiest area of this online auction is the car section. Most of the cars for sale come with photos and comprehensive descriptions. You can even auction off domain names here.
eBay
www.ebay.co.uk
The UK version of the giant US person-to-person auction site is impressive. It's free to put your stuff up for sale here. And although many of the auctions are based in the US you can search for only those lots sold in the UK.
Ebid
www.ebid.co.uk
You get to run your own auction on this site by putting up your own goods for sale. Be warned though: if you do manage to sell anything you will be charged a percentage of the final bid. There are lots of products being auctioned here and Ebid is especially good for computer hardware and software.
Eurobid
www.eurobid.com
This nicely designed site shows you which auctions are closing today so you could pick up a few bargains if you get in there with a winning bid right at the last minute. The sellers come from all over Europe and so the prices are listed in euros, although the seller specifies what currency they want to be paid in. You'll find everything from books through to villas for sale on this site.
First Auction
www.firstauction.com
If you like your auctions fast and furious check out the Flash Auctions on this site. First Auction hold 21 half-hour auctions every day - check out the online timetable for more details. Bidding starts at a dollar on the Flash auctions. The site is US-based but you can still get some bargains.
Amazon Auctions
www.amazon.co.uk
You've got the potential to reach over 13 million buyers around the world if you auction items at Amazon. It's free to put an ad up there, you simply fill in an online form. You'll find a mix of US and UK-based auctions and there's a wide selection of goods on sale.
Auction Hunter
www.auctionhunter.co.uk
This person-to-person auction site attracts plenty of activity. However if you don't want to hang around bidding all day, you can always set up the RoboBid which bids automatically for you up to your pre-set ceiling. Auction Hunter also conducts Dutch auctions on this site.
The Thesaurus Group
www.thesaurus.co.uk
More than the normal internet auction sites. Times,dates and places of sales sites across the UK, plus Auction Search allows you to search 1,000 pages of catalogues from over 600 auction houses and ACTS tracks stolen fine art, antiques and collectibles.
CD's, 
TAPES, DVD's, & VIDEOS
101CD.com
www.101cd.com
This site doesn't look great and the design is very basic, however it does stock over one million CDs, DVDs, videos, games and books. That figure includes over 500,000 import CDs. Price and breadth of choice are the big selling points here. A selection of the top 40 major new releases are going for a mere 9.99 and that price includes postage and packing within the UK. For each CD you get track listings plus reviews from other 101CD customers.
Audiostreet
www.audiostreet.co.uk
The prices are very reasonable on this UK-based site with some chart CDs selling for a mere 9.99. Even better, delivery is free to UK addresses. The site is a doddle to use - you just search the database by artist or by CD title. You get to see your name in lights if you add your own album reviews to the site. If you want to stay on top of the charts you can choose to view only the last fortnight's worth of new releases.
CD Paradise
www.cdparadise.com
This site is a spin off from WH Smith. The selection of CDs is reasonable with many going for as little as 9.99. You can search for the title of CD or go to a specific artist or just browse through a musical genre. The CDs are well reviewed and you can submit your own opinions to the site. Shipping rates are fixed at 2.95 if you order over 50 worth of products and the items should be dispatched within 48 hours. There's also a handy Email Update option that lets you know when your favourite artist releases a new CD.
CDNow
www.cdnow.com
CDNow was one of the first and remains one of the best and most comprehensive of online music stores. The site is based in the US, which means you get attractive US prices. The good news is that CDNow use a European shipping centre to speed up delivery and cut down on costs for those over the pond. You'll find Realaudio samples of many tracks on the site so you can get a taster of a CD before you buy. You can even create your own greatest hits CD by downloading tracks at the very reasonable price of 99 cents per track.
Emusic
www.emusic.com
This professional looking US site stocks a huge range of CDs. Many of the CDs available have sample tracks that you can listen to for free and you can download tracks at 99 cents a pop. The site also has a music news service and plenty of background information on the artists. There's even a pretty comprehensive list of live gigs around the world.
HMV
www.hmv.co.uk
The huge high street music and video store, HMV, as got a rather good web presence as well. In case you hadn't guessed already, the site offers you the chance to buy everything on-line that you can get from any one of the standard shops. The front page contains that week's new releases, any of which you can buy. As you would expect from HMV, the back catalogue is truly immense, and the search engine allows you to find what you are looking for with ease.
Boxman
www.boxman.co.uk
This site is very simple to use and it's fast. But perhaps the best news for music fans is that it sells CDs at very competitive prices (the price of chart CDs varied between 10 and 11). You can search the CD database by title, artist or by a specific track. If you're lucky you might find you can even listen to sample tracks of your chosen CD over the Internet.
Yalplay
www.yalplay.com
Yalplay sells chart CDs at prices of around 10.99, which is a couple of quid cheaper than you'll find them in high street musical outlets. As well as CDs the site also stocks a reasonable selection of vinyl and mini-disks. You won't find much background information on the artists and there are no track listings, which can be frustrating. Most CDs are shipped out the next working day at a delivery cost of 1.25 for the first CD and 25p for each CD thereafter.
BlackStar
www.blackstar.co.uk
The simple design of this site means it's fast to load and easy to work your way around. You're tempted in on the front page with special offers and free postage costs on DVDs and videos. You can browse by film genre or search for specific titles. There's a plot summary for most of the films and suggestions of other films you might like to see in the same genre. The site is not short on bargains either - some popular videos were available for a mere 3.99.
DVD Box Office
www.dvdboxoffice.com
This site offers free shipping worldwide, which makes a pleasant surprise. Of course because Boxoffice is based in the States you can get hold of films before they're available in the UK and they're much cheaper than over here. New Arrivals take centre stage on the opening page of the site and you're looking at prices between $25 and $30 for the latest movies.
DVD Express
www.dvdexpress.com
If you are serious about DVD, then the only way to go is to import titles from America. The problem is choosing a suitably reliable site. DVD Express is one such site. Offering thousands of titles, as well as music CD's and movie merchandise, this is a great site. The design allows you to search for a title based on a key word, or delve through the structure in place.
DVDplus
www.dvdplus.co.uk
This site looks very stylish and proved to be easy to navigate. You can search for videos or DVDs by title, actor or director or you can browse by genre. Each DVD comes with a plot summary, reviews and a star rating. If you're stuck for gift ideas then why not visit the Inspire Me section where you'll find a list of 10 classic films that anyone would appreciate.
Filmstore
www.filmstore.co.uk
This site is a subsidiary of the Odeon cinema group and it sells the top DVDs and videos. Each movie comes with a plot summary and you can search for specific actors or directors. There's a special section called TV Heaven for cult soaps and TV shows on video which contains classics such as Brideshead Revisited.
Filmworld
www.filmworld.co.uk
You'll find a good selection of videos and CDs on sale at Filmworld. The movies are accompanied by detailed background information. Movie buffs will appreciate the many and varied ways you can search the Filmworld database - by film title, director, actor, distributor or by a specific year. You could even use the online Film Atlas to choose films made in specific countries. And just to get you in the mood, you can even check out a few film trailers online.
Video Paradise
www.videoparadise.com
Video Paradise is yet another WH Smith spin off. You'll find plenty of special offers on the site, with most of the videos being backed up by comprehensive movie reviews along with customer comments. If you're not sure what you fancy watching then check out the video charts for inspiration. Videos are sent out within 48 hours and delivery is charged at 2.95.
Entertainment Express
www.entexpress.com
Not only does Entertainment Express sell videos but it also turns its hands to CDs and software. You'll always find some attractive special offers at the site with many videos going for as little as 3.99. If you're looking for inspiration you can browse by genre or find a specific title by typing in a movie title or an actor's name. The prices are good and include delivery costs.

 

FLORISTS
Sayitwith
www.sayitwith.co.uk
Not only can you say it with flowers at this site but you can also say it with chocolates and champagne - or even better a combination of all three. Sayitwith offers free delivery nationwide and a same-day delivery - great for that last-minute gift. The site itself is brightly coloured and easy to use with some useful gift suggestions. There are three prices for each bouquet depending on the size of the arrangement. The Reminder Service is handy - you need never forget that important birthday or anniversary again.
Interflora
www.interflora.co.uk
Interflora is that old faithful standby for those of us who've forgot the birthday/anniversary for the 10th year in a row. Interflora even has a Personal Organiser feature available on its website which will email reminders of important dates. If you're feeling particularly uninspired about what bouquet to send you could always click on the Customer Favourites button to see what everybody else went for. As well as the cost of the bouquet you'll also pay a service charge for the luxury of buying from Interflora. Your flowers should be delivered the next day.
Clare Florist
www.clareflorist.co.uk
This site is a doddle to use it's so simply designed. Clare Florist has a good pedigree - they supply flowers to Edinburgh castle. You can order hand-tied bouquets, roses and baskets from the site, all with guaranteed next-day delivery in the UK. Although Clare Florist does its fair share of conventional roses/carnations arrangements, it also does some more unusual bouquets. If you can't make up your mind what flowers to send choose the most popular bouquet option and take your pick from there. Prices are typically around the 20 to 25 mark.
Floritel
www.floritel.com
Floritel has flowers for every occasion including a special section for mourning flowers. This is no ordinary florists, it's a global network of flower arrangers across 190 countries. As a result of this network you can order flowers from the Floritel site to be delivered around the world. The service is fast - flowers can be delivered within four hours. The information on the bouquets themselves is on the light side and choice is limited. The prices are reasonable however.
Flowers by Design
www.flowersbydesign.co.uk
If you're after a more unusual bouquet and don't mind paying that little bit extra point your browser at Flowers by Design. The company's florists make all the bouquets in their premises in the North of England, the displays are then delivered by courier anywhere in the UK. The huge image files of the bouquets give you a clear idea of what you're getting for your money; by the way prices start at around 40 and go up to 70 and include delivery charges. We guarantee you maximum brownie points when these flowers hit a loved one's doorstep.
Flowers Direct
www.flowersdirectuk.co.uk
Flowers Direct will deliver their bouquets free anywhere in the UK. This tasteful and well-designed site gives you plenty of help on choosing the right bouquet - you can check out the top sellers or see what Flowers Direct recommends for your specific special occasion. Very tasteful and well-designed site with good, clear product shots. Good on helping you choose the right bouquet. The prices range from 25 through to 40 and it delivers the next day. If you're a bit of a tight-wad you could always check out the Valuepak range which start at under 15.
Flying Flowers
www.flyingflowers.co.uk
Jersey-based florists Flying Flowers send out your bouquets through the first-class post. Of course they're well packaged in sturdy protective gift packaging before they're sent out. As a result of these reduced shipping costs the prices of the bouquets start at a very reasonable 9.99 and that includes delivery. The choice of arrangements isn't huge and they are quite conventional.
Expressions
www.expressions.co.uk
Not only will Expressions sell you a bouquet but it can also do balloons in a box for those really special occasions. The choice of bouquets and baskets is fairly conventional with prices starting at 20, plus a 2.99 service charge. You get to browse through the arrangements and there are specific sections for wedding flowers and flowers for business. Bouquets are shipped the next day.

 

SHOPPING
Iceland
www.iceland.co.uk
The TV ads tell us that Iceland sell more than just frozen food and in attempt to compete with the big boys they've recently launched an online shopping service. The service is available to customers living within a 10-mile radius of an Iceland store (or three miles within the M25 area) and, even better, delivery is free if you order over 40 worth of goods. As you'd expect from Iceland the prices are competitive and the range of goods available is impressive.
Lastorders.com
www.lastorders.com
Instead of nipping round the corner to the local offy you can get all your booze from Lastorders. The site stocks over 250 products and is strong on lagers, ciders, spirits and Alcopops. The choice of wines is less impressive, wine buffs will be better off with a dedicated wine merchant. Prices are reasonable but do bear in mind the fact that you're usually ordering in bulk. The delivery fee is 3.50 per order.
Organics Direct
www.organicsdirect.com
We might all want to eat healthy organic food but it can be tricky to find a good local supplier. Organics Direct gets around this problem by delivering its range of organic fruit, vegetables, dairy produce, bread, wine and cakes to anywhere in the UK mainland. Bizarrely, you can even order organic nappies from the site. The produce comes highly recommended - the company won the 'Box scheme of the year' award in the National 1999 Organic Food awards. A mixed vegetable box will set you back a mere 12.95 including delivery.
Tesco Direct
www.tesco.co.uk
It's good news for Southerners on the Tesco site - if you live in London or the South East you can order your weekly grocery shop from the Tesco site and get it shipped direct to your door. If you live in the rest of the UK there's a fair chance you might still fall in the Tesco online shopping catchment area - you'll just have to type in your postcode to see if you're one of the lucky ones. There's an excellent range of goods available from the site including items from the off-license area and magazines and newspapers. Delivery costs a fiver and if you order early enough goods can be shipped out the same day.
Whittard Of Chelsea
www.whittard.com
The tea and coffee specialist Whittard has branches all over the country, and now you can order your tea and coffee over the Internet with this simply designed, easy to use site. As well as tea (covering heaps of varieties from Oolong Black Dragon through to English Breakfast) and coffee (covering virtually every coffee you care to mention), you can also order china and 'specials' (biscuits, gift vouchers, hot chocolate). Whittard will even ship items over to America for you. There's one area of the site that Americans will find particularly useful, it gives you instructions on how to make the perfect cup of tea.
Worldfoods
www.worldfoods.co.uk
It's not always easy to get hold of organic foods, which is where WorldFoods steps in with its range of unprocessed, additive-free foods. Amongst the myriad products you can buy online are nuts, snacks, dried fruits, grains and pasta, organic groceries, breakfast cereals, seeds beans and lentils and organic vegetables. The site is smart enough to store details of your last order so you can use that as a basis for your next online shop.
Sainsbury's
www.sainsburys.co.uk
Shop online with Sainsbury's and your fruit and veg is specially selected for you by trained Orderline shoppers, you can even specify how ripe you like your bananas. The online ordering service doesn't cover all of the UK as yet - you have to type in your postcode to see if you're in the catchment area. Order before 9pm and you'll get your goods by 10am the next day. As with Tesco, the delivery fee for ordering your grub online is a fiver.
Berry Bros & Rudd
www.bbr.co.uk
This is one of the best online wine merchants selling some top quality grape juice. Hang the expense and check out the vintage section of the site where you'll see lots of wines at over 250 a bottle. But there's plenty to suit at the budget end of the market too. Each wine comes with a helpful description and you can search their huge database by grape variety, country of origin or colour. If you order over 100 worth of wine delivery is free, otherwise it costs a rather expensive 7.50 per order.

 

STORES
Toys R Us
www.toysrus.co.uk
The giant toy superstore stocks nearly 1,000 toys on its bright and breezy Web site. You can browse by category of toys with most items accompanied by clear pictures. The prices are competitive and there are often special online promotions and deals. You should also check out the sister Babies R Us site (www.babiesrus.co.uk) where you can buy baby toys, clothes and even nappies. Products are normally delivered within three working days and the delivery charge is 2.50 per order.
Zoom
www.zoom.co.uk
Zoom isn't a big name on the high street but you will know the stores behind this new online brand; TopShop, Principles, Dorothy Perkins and Evans are just a few of the brand names represented in this online department store. Zoom majors on selling clothing although you can also buy electrical items, gifts, household goods and even cars if your credit card will let you. Every product is accompanied by a picture, so you can see exactly what you're buying.
Debenhams
www.debenhams.co.uk
Debenhams is one of the first of the big department stores to actually offer products for sale online. The online goods for sale are limited to a selection of gifts and flowers and you can also access the wedding list service through the site. The gifts are nicely presented and beautifully photographed. The 100 or so products are split into section gifts for Him, for Her and for the Home. Delivery is free on orders over 125 otherwise it's 2.95 per order and that includes free returns.
The Gadget Shop
www.thegadgetshop.co.uk
The Gadget Shop is packed full of those stylish items so beloved by boys everywhere. You'll find a good selection of the products available on the high street on this site. Real gadget fans can even set up their own personal gift wish list, which is a great boon if you've got a birthday coming up. If you don't know where to start why not check out the top ten most popular items on the site. Once you've chosen one product just follow the suggestions that lead you to other similar products. You could be there for days.
Hamleys
www.hamleys.co.uk
Visiting Hamleys with kids in tow can be a torturous experience - you'll never get the children out of there without kicking and screaming as there's just too much stuff to play with. Now you can get hold of that famous red Hamleys bag without setting foot in the store by shopping online. You can choose items by category of toy or check out the toy recommendations. There are even some limited-edition toys that adults will probably take a bit of a fancy to. The site looks great and every toy is well photographed - but be warned, it's not cheap.
Liberty of London
www.liberty-of-london.com/shopping
This site is gorgeous, which is no more than you'd expect from this exclusive London department store. If you're looking for unusual gifts this is the site to visit. You'll find exquisite fabrics, hoards of gift ideas for the man or woman in your life and some fabulous furniture. All the products are clearly photographed and then dispatched in the distinctive purple and gold Liberty packaging. The items shown here aren't cheap although you could always click on the button that pulls up all the items under 50.
MFI
www.mfi.co.uk
If it's free-standing bedroom, office, lounge or kitchen furniture you're after, they can all be ordered online from MFI. If you're after more detailed information and help on planning your room you can even book an appointment with one of MFI's specialist planners from the Web site. Delivery is free and as you'll know MFI boasts some of the keenest furniture prices in the business.
Argos
www.argos.co.uk
You won't find the entire Argos catalogue online just yet. Nevertheless the selection of products is impressive. You can choose to search by entering a key word or you can relax and browse through product areas. The products are accompanied by photos gleaned from the catalogue. The delivery process is less than impressive though, Argos state you'll usually get your product within four to six working days - which is a bit tardy. Spend over 150 and delivery is free.

 

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