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 COLUMBUS, Ohio, Nov. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Fans of the fruitcake -- that much-maligned and ubiquitous holiday gift -- can use their modem- equipped personal computers to defend the dense dessert and get a jump on their holiday shopping at the same time.
 The Electronic Mall, the shopping area on the CompuServe Information Service, has launched its tenth holiday season with a wealth of special services and promotions designed to help members get in the spirit as they search for the perfect gift. With nearly 1.5 million members, CompuServe is the leading worldwide online information service.
 Sponsored by The Gift Sender, one of 125 merchants on The Electronic Mall, the "We Believe in Fruitcake" contest invites CompuServe members to submit a one-line description of their favorite thing to do with fruitcake (other than eat it). Ten "lucky" winners will receive a fruitcake handmade by Trappist monks at The Assumption Abbey Bakery. The Grand Prize winner will receive a $100 CompuServe connect-time credit.
 Although CompuServe members frequent the Mall throughout the year, usage increases sharply during the holiday season, when the advantages of online shopping become even more apparent. In addition to avoiding crowded parking lots, jam-packed stores and harried salesclerks, CompuServe shoppers enjoy 24-hour free access to a variety of merchandise unmatched by any brick-and-mortar mall. Merchants range from well-known retailers like JCPenney, Sears and Lands' End to smaller specialty shops.
 New York City's world-renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art opened a Mall store in September 1992 and saw its sales increase 500 percent during its first year online.
 "It's apparent that consumer awareness and acceptance of online shopping is growing rapidly," said Rebecca Kerewsky, direct marketing analyst for the Museum. "We're very pleased with the increase in sales and look forward to a successful holiday season." Suggested gifts from the Museum's Mall store range from a set of angel note cards for $10.95 to the 16-volume Cultural Atlas Series, priced at $595.
 The Museum is one of about 25 merchants using high-resolution graphic images to show some of the items available through their Mall stores. These images, in the Graphic Interchange Format (GIF), look like color photographs and can be viewed online or downloaded for later viewing. (The CompuServe Information Manager, which is available for Macintosh, DOS and Windows environments, is required for online viewing.) Shoppers can view GIF images of holiday gifts in the Holiday Bazaar and in individual Mall stores.
 New to the Mall this year is the UNICEF Store, where members can purchase greeting cards to benefit children worldwide. Cards are available in eight different styles, all displayed online as GIF images, with prices ranging from $7.50 to $19.00 for a package of 12 to 20 cards. The UNICEF store is gratis and also allows CompuServe members to make online donations.
 With hundreds of thousands of items to choose from and limited time, it's easy to be overwhelmed. The Mall offers a number of ways to quickly locate a specific item or to find just the right gift for a hard-to-please recipient.
 -- The Mall Index lets shoppers search by category, then by product for a list of stores that stock a particular item. The Corporate Gift Guide lists Mall stores that offer special corporate gift programs during the holiday season.
 -- The Holiday Gift Guide offers more than 400 gift suggestions in 13 categories, including Out-of-the-Ordinary Offerings, Hi-Tech Toys, Visions of Sugar Plums (gourmet items), and The Big Splurge (gifts more than $500).
 -- Custom gift advice is provided to members during the first 10 days of December; within 72 hours of asking for help, members will receive at least three suggestions of gifts available on the Mall.
 Approximately 70 percent of Mall merchants ship internationally, and many also offer overnight shipping for last-minute shoppers. Members can locate these merchants quickly using a delivery guide in the Holiday Bazaar, a special area within the Mall that contains the latest news on holiday events and promotions. The Bazaar also contributes to seasonal overindulgence by providing several Christmas and Hanukkah recipes, courtesy of the International Culinary Institute of America, through one of the Mall's new stores -- the VNR Bookstore & Cafe.
 CompuServe members pay $8.95 per month for unlimited connect-time access to 48 basic services, including The Electronic Mall. In addition, more than 1,700 extended services are available for $8 per hour when accessing CompuServe with a 1200 or 2400 bits per second modem and $16 per hour at 9.6 or 14.4 kilobits per second. For membership information, call 800/848-8199.
 Established in 1979, the CompuServe Information Service provides its worldwide membership of nearly 1.5 million with database and services to meet both business and personal interests. CompuServe can be accessed by any modem-equipped personal computer utilizing general communications software. In addition to the CompuServe Information Service, CompuServe Incorporated provides frame relay, wide and local area networking services, business information services and software to major corporations and government agencies nationwide.
 CompuServe is an H&R Block (NYSE: HRB) company.
 -0- 11/9/93
 /CONTACT: Debra Young, 614-538-4553, Michelle Moran, 614-538-3497, both of CompuServe Incorporated, or CompuServe Mail 70004,336/

CO: CompuServe Incorporated ST: Ohio IN: PUB LEI SU:

AR -- CL002 -- 2018 11/09/93 07:20 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Nov 9, 1993
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