February 7, 2006, 12:00 AM

Valentine’s Day gifts expand beyond the traditional, search data says

Mattresses and plasma TVs could be big sellers in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. Last year, data from search site ShopLocal.com showed they were among the top five searches during that time.

Online marketers know that search does more than simply help shoppers find products-mining search data also can provide clues on future purchasing trends. That’s why online and local store search site ShopLocal.com is predicting mattresses will be big sellers both online and off in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, which has become the second largest retail holiday of the year.

A look at the top search terms on ShopLocal.com for the two weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day last year shows that while “plasma" was the most-searched term and “flowers” came in at only fifth place, “mattress” was a surprising third among the most used searched terms. Specifically, the number of unique visits to ShopLocal’s “bedroom furniture” category grew by 49% during the two weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day last year, compared to the previous two weeks. During that time, the number of unique searches for “mattress” grew by 40%.

“What’s interesting is that in an industry dominated by holiday sales meant to draw people into the physical store, more and more people are first researching mattresses on the web, or simply buying them online,” says Eva Yusa, ShopLocal.com shopping expert.

ShopLocal.com data showed Miami, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Philadelphia and Fort Worth, TX, to be the top mattress markets in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day last year, with all five cities having “mattress” among their top five searched during that time.

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