November 30, 2012, 12:00 AM

Flowers / Gifts / Jewelry

Retail sites where shopping becomes something special.

Lead Photo

When consumers buy a hammer they just want something functional. But when shopping for flowers, gifts and jewelry they're looking for sparkle, excitement, beauty—something special.

The retailers in this category know how to lift shopping out of the humdrum. They do it by adding high-touch service features, novel ways of shopping or by offering products that are unique or just plain silly. and cater to the affluent, and their sites bespeak elegance, while also offering practical features. lets a shopper place several watches in a virtual watch tray to compare them, and to schedule appointments at a physical store to see the timepieces in person. At, shoppers can zoom in on the smallest details of the pricey jewelry on offer.

But there's also plenty of quirkiness among the Hot 100 retailers featured here. At, shoppers buy mystery bags of cosmetics and fashion items, then have 30 days to trade them with others to get the items they prefer. sells offbeat gifts such as Huey, a plastic chameleon whose color changes to match the surface it's placed on. The e-retailer illustrates its products with amusing videos—the one about Huey points out the pun "hue-y"—and consumers have watched those videos 160 million times on YouTube. lets craftsmen tell the story behind the products they've made. "This is about getting the voice of the creator to the consumer," says cofounder Joanne Domeniconi. offers designs from artists and lets consumers vote on the designs the e-retailer will sell.

Artists are also at the center of, which sells musical animated greeting cards designed by U.K. artist Jacquie Lawson. Each image is sketched and painted, then scanned into Photoshop for finishing touches and turned into Flash files. But don't be fooled by the technology; these cards are the work of artists who aim for perfection. "We're a bit obsessive about detail and getting things right," says cofounder Michael Hughes-Chamberlain, who also creates and arranges the music for the cards. "For example, in the animation of teddy bears playing violins, even the fingering is correct."
It's that kind of passion for the products they sell that makes these sites special.

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