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Retail Websites Hoping for Late Sales

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Retail websites have bumped back deadlines and are offering free express shipping after weekend snowstorms kept holiday shoppers home in large areas of the East Coast.

The Associated Press reports has extended the cutoff for standard shipping by one day through Monday. Macy's website is offering free shipping through the end of the day today, and J.C. Penney through Tuesday.

The moves are a bid to capture business from snowed-in shoppers in the final days before Christmas.

The weekend before Christmas is one of the busiest of the year. But snow that stretched from the Carolinas to New England closed malls and kept shoppers off treacherous roads.

Web retailers saw heavy traffic during the weekend. Retail web traffic peaked at 2.9 million visitors per minute Saturday night, according to the Akamai Retail Net Usage Index. That was up from 1.9 million on the Saturday before Christmas in 2008, though that day--December 20--was closer to Christmas than this year.

Online spending grew 14.4 percent after Black Friday through December 12, according to a release Sunday from MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse, which estimates sales in all payment forms, including cash and checks.

Shoppers may give retailers, both online and bricks-and-mortar, a frenzied last few days before Christmas after digging out the snow.

"The expectation is people have waited until the last minute but they have not waited until the last day," said Wally Brewster, senior vice president for marketing and communications at General Growth Properties Inc.

More people have put off their shopping this year as they look for more deals. General Growth, which has more than 220 malls, figures about half of its shoppers are last-minute ones, up 10 percent from last year.