May 6, 2009, 12:00 AM

Sears introduces an online group-gifting service

Consumers can form a group by e-mail, then chip in by credit card to give a larger gift collectively than they could afford individually. There’s no charge for the givetogether service.

Whether the recipient is Mom or a graduate, cash-strapped consumers may not be able to give as expensive a gift as they would like today. Sears is using the power of the Internet to enable friends and relatives, even if they’re far apart, to chip in together on a gift.

To use the service, called givetogether, a group organizer or recipient goes to Sears.com and selects a product that becomes the group gift goal. Then she sends an e-mail inviting friends and relatives to contribute. Participants can charge their contributions to credit cards. There’s no fee for the service.

The group can watch its progress online. When the goal is met, the organizer presents the recipient an electronic Sears eGift Card, via e-mail or in person, and the recipient can use the gift card to purchase the product via the web or in a store.

"Our customers have told us it is especially important now to demonstrate their thoughtfulness on special occasions to the people they care about, and they are looking for new ways to delight and surprise them," says Richard Gerstein, senior vice president of marketing for Sears Holdings Corp. "To that end, Sears is redefining how people are giving gifts with givetogether. No other retailer has such a unique combination of multichannel assets and capabilities, like givetogether, that makes gift giving so easy and fun."

Sears is No. 8 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide

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