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e-Tailers' dream season: Visions of runaway hits dance in their heads

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas - at least on major retailers' Web sites. Banner ads are popping up on major e-commerce sites - including and - highlighting top-selling computers, DVDs, toys and consumer electronics items as well as offering hints to help shoppers find something special for friends and loved ones. Yet while this year's online sales are once again expected to set new benchmarks, identifying this season's product and promotional hits is not as easy as it was in 2006.

Last year was a strong one for retailers because a few highly touted products were just making their way to market. Sony's PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii had consumers frantically banging away at their keyboards or sleeping in store parking lots in order to purchase these high-demand products of low availability. In fact, an promotion focusing on low priced PS3s was so well received that consumers knocked the company's Web site offline.

The video game market is expected to again drive traffic to the big e-commerce sites. To get a jump on the holiday spending, Microsoft announced the latest version of its popular "Halo" video game for the Xbox 360 in September. In October, Sony announced a bundling of the "Spider-Man 3" DVD with a 40GB version of the PS3 as well as cutting the price of its 80GB system.

Deep-pocketed customers are often drawn to technology-based products. "Digital photo frames, digital cameras, laptops and GPS systems are products that we expect to do well this year," said Chris Madaus, vice president of marketing for Staples Business Delivery. Home entertainment systems have been popular in the past few years.

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