Closing Shop, which just last month billed itself as the “world’s fastest-growing online auction network,” is shutting down at the end of August. parent Classified Ventures, which is owned by some of the largest media companies in the U.S., said the closing will enable it to shift more attention to its and sites.

“The reality of today’s business climate demands we make hard decisions about where to focus our resources,” said Classified Ventures chief executive David Israel. “The online automotive and real estate markets represent a much more significant economic opportunity for Classified Ventures and its investors than the online auctions business.”

Classified Ventures, based in Chicago, Illinois, is owned by media giants Central Newspapers, Inc., Gannett Co., Inc., Knight Ridder, The McClatchy Company, The New York Times Company, Tribune Company and The Washington Post Company.

‘Great Disappointment’ informed users of the impending closing in a terse statement on its site Tuesday night. The statement offered no explanation for the decision to drop out of the crowded online auction market but said it is a “great disappointment.”

Items can be placed on the site for auction until noon EDT, August 23rd, said, and bidding will be allowed through noon, August 30th. Those with account balances after the last bids will receive refunds, and sales transaction fees will be waived for auctions that close after noon, August 23rd. began in 1997 as, which Classified Ventures acquired and launched as in December 1999.

Despite offering bidders access through its main site as well as more than 130 newspaper affiliate Web sites, including The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post, failed to catch up with Yahoo! Auctions and eBay.

Dwarfed by Competition reportedly drew only 416,000 unique visitors to its Web site in June. By comparison, eBay, the dominant player in the online auction space, had some 12 million hits in June and 12.5 million in July, placing 16th in the Media Metrix top 50.

In the second quarter of this year, eBay reported its revenues rose 97 percent, while some $1.3 billion (US$) in goods were traded over the eBay site during the quarter, 108 percent above the first quarter level.

At the same time, eBay said, the number of registered users grew 183 percent to 15.8 million.

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