RETAILING BRIEFS

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Consumer Spending Slides

New York—Rising gas prices, a priority to save money, nervousness over the the presidential election, and loss of equity in stocks and other investments are causing shoppers to cut back on spending, according to a survey conducted by America's Research Group (ARG). The survey found that 37.3 percent of 1,000 consumers reported they are spending less on themselves and their families, and 32.2 percent are delaying purchases. ARG is a research and strategic marketing firm that records consumer buying patterns for retail clients and manufacturers.

Circuit City Introduces AOL Broadband Service

Richmond, Va.—Circuit City has begun offering America Online's digital subscriber line-based "AOL Plus" service at select stores. The service is available in areas served by SBC Communications or Verizon Communications, the local phone companies AOL uses for high-speed connections. The arrangement marks the first time DSL customers can purchase add-on modems for PCs through a national chain, according to a spokeswoman for Texas Instruments, which makes the modems' chips. A similar program with Gateway stores is also in the works, AOL said. Though the DSL deals were announced last year, AOL has been bolstering its mainstream service to avoid bugs that have plagued the still immature broadband business.

In other Circuit City news, the company has teamed with Eastman Kodak to offer co-branded photo-album software and Internet-based photo-finishing services through Circuit's nearly 600 Superstores. The software and service are due later this fall.

GERS Unveils Application To Complete Credit Control

San Diego—GERS introduced @ctivate, an ASP-capable application for credit scoring and activation. The new service uses Internet technology to facilitate business-to-business information exchanges between carriers, dealers and field agents, while merging credit scoring, activation and provisioning into one transaction. GERS hopes @ctivate will improve customer service by significantly reducing the wait time associated with purchase and activation of wireless, wireline and cable service. GERS plans a production release in first-quarter 2001.

Wireless Agent Goes Online

Edison, N.J.—Wireless agent Direct Communications has launched its first e-commerce site, elephantwireless.com. The agent's 50-plus outlets and website sell wireless phones, pagers, home satellite systems and wireless accessories. Direct activates service in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.

Electronics Boutique Bows Program For MSN Rebates

West Chester, Pa.—Electronics Boutique, the PC gaming specialty retailer, has formed an alliance with Microsoft that will allow its customers to receive rebates on purchases for signing up for MSN Internet Access. Consumers will receive $100 rebates for signing up for 12 months, $200 for 24 months and $400 for 36 months. "The MSN Internet Access reach is broadening through this agreement with Electronics Boutique," said Jay Goldstein, director for MSN at Microsoft.

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