BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Any houseplant with time and a credit card can buy a popular item from a major online retailer's one-day flash sale and call it a holiday gift. Pros like surprises and know just the sites to supply them.
If you're among the 43.9% of Americans that the National Retail Federation said would be wooed by the deep discounts and free shipping they'd find shopping online at Amazon (AMZN), Wal-Mart (WMT), Best Buy (BBY - Get Report), Target (TGT) and other online retailers this holiday season, congratulations: You're in the new mall. In the first month of the holiday shopping season alone, ComScore (SCOR - Get Report) says American consumers have spent $13.55 billion online, up 13% from the same period last year. Cyber Monday accounted for more than $1 billion of those sales for the first time, which represents a 16% spike from last year. Just shopping online alone doesn't make you or your gifts special -- it just makes them easy to get.
|Thinkgeek's website sells everything from samurai sword-handled umbrellas to Tauntaun Sleeping Bags -- so you don't have to kill your own.|
Across the Web, however, are thousands of versions of the shop around the corner that doesn't sell $200 HDTVs or $5 DVDs, but corners the market on the quirky items that never make it to the mass-market shelves and the scene-stealing stocking stuffers that get $300 worth of reaction out of a $25-to-$50 item. Here are just 10 examples of out-of-the-way holiday sites where TheStreet found more than a few of its favorite things:Thinkgeek: Any self-respecting geek who's boarded a bus or subway car on a rainy day with a samurai sword-handled umbrella ($19.99 to $24.99), revived their dusty Nintendo and Super Nintendo games with the help of a Retro Duo console ($49.99) or worn a glowing Iron Man arc reactor LED shirt ($12.99 to $17.99) in mixed company probably has given or received an item from this site. While there's a broad market for inherently nerdy gifts such as Wi-Fi-detecting hats ($9.99) and magnetic BuckyBalls building spheres for the office ($29.99 to $34.99), ThinkGeek still plays to a hardened core with such items as Tauntaun Sleeping Bags for those unwilling to hollow out an actual animal for bedding as Harrison Ford did in The Empire Strikes Back or $900 replica pulse rifles for would-be Sigourney Weavers who believe Aliens as not just a movie, but an inevitability.