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After several months of testing in Atlanta-area Kroger stores, BellSouth is putting phone service on retail store shelves. The first product, Teen Line Pack, is scheduled to hit 300 retail outlets next month, including Office Depot, Circuit City Stores and Target Stores.

Other packages expected to follow include a Home Office Pack for telecommuters, a Learning Pack for Internet users, a Family Education Pack and a Home Security Pack. All will be sold initially only within BellSouth's nine-state Southeastern region.

The launch will be supported by ads from Merkley Newman Harty, New York; spending and creative details are undisclosed.


In addition to a second phone line setup for the under-20 set, the Teen Line Pack includes a membership card in a 411 teen's club, with special discounts and collateral materials that allow the teen to print his or her own business cards.

Judy Miller, BellSouth communications manager, said the company is keeping the contents of the box under wraps until Oct. 27, but did say there's no phone jack, wiring or installation instructions inside the box. Customers will still have to contact BellSouth to connect the new line and will be encouraged to send a fax or e-mail. The customer can indicate on the message what day is best for an installer to come to the home. The BellSouth business office would then call the customer to nail down a specific time and day.


Ms. Miller said the advantages to buying the Teen Line Pack and the packages that follow will be a price break, ease of use plus other incentives. "The whole box is really targeted to answer questions that each different demographic group may have," she said.

While the idea of selling phone service like cereal off grocery store shelves seems odd, analysts say it fits with changes in the marketing of telecommunications services.

"When I look at the telecommunications industry, I now see a [business] like MTV or Swatch or Pepsi that has increasingly less to do with telephone service and more to do with freedom and lifestyle," said Jeffrey Kagan, president of Kagan Telecom Associates. "Increasingly, you're going to see the retailing of telephone services."


Retail sales are one of the growing ways telecom service providers are trying to grab market share and build brand recognition as competition begins to heat up. Sprint launched a $40 million media blitz three weeks ago to kick off its retail deal with Radio Shack to sell Sprint Corp. and Sprint PCS phone services. MCI Communications Corp., AT&T Corp. and Sprint also sell pre-paid long-distance phone cards in outlets such as Sam's Club.

Packaged phone lines, like BellSouth's offering, is one of the newest ideas.

"They've come up with an alternate channel to reach customers. BellSouth is

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