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Sure, the bricks have it bad, but the clicks are struggling, too. Reston (Va.)-headquartered traffic tracking firm Comscore says U.S. online retail spending totaled $29.6 billion in the third quarter of 2009, a 2% decrease year-over-year. It marks the first time on record that e-commerce has seen negative growth in two consecutive quarters. However, some experts believe the holidays will prove e-commerce's strength, especially when it comes to customer service. According to a recent report by Cambridge (Mass.)-based Forrester Research, 2009 U.S. online holiday sales will increase by 8%, to $44.7 billion. With most analysts declaring overall holiday retail sales will either remain flat or decrease by a percentage point or two, Forrester's prediction suggests many consumers are still shifting to online shopping.

Methodology: To determine the best e-commerce sites for the holidays, we turned to retail marketing agency TPN, based in Dallas, which conducted a consumer survey on Internet retailers from Nov. 6 through Nov. 8, 2009. The study asked respondents 13 questions regarding ease of use, value, variety, customer service, shipping, and visual appeal. To rank the sites, we used this data, as well as annual Web site traffic numbers and 2008 annual online sales data (provided by Chicago-headquartered Euromonitor International).