3 retailers join Bell Atlantic video-shopping plan

August 31, 1994|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Sun Staff Writer

Three of the leading names in U.S. retailing have agreed to set up shop in Bell Atlantic Corp.'s electronic shopping mall, the regional phone company said yesterday.

Lands' End, Nordstrom and J. C. Penney will participate in a market trial of Bell Atlantic's planned video-on-demand service, called Stargazer, the company said. The trial will be the first test in this region of how consumers react to a service that brings television programming to the home over the telephone network.

Larry Plumb, a spokesman for Bell Atlantic Video Services in Reston, Va., said the 1,000-home test in Northern Virginia could begin this winter if the Federal Communications Commission approves it in time.

Recruiting Lands' End, Nordstrom and Penney brings retailing credibility to Stargazer. Dodgeville, Wis.-based Lands' End is a leading catalog merchant. Nordstrom, based in Seattle, is a specialty apparel chain with a sterling reputation for customer service. J. C. Penney, with headquarters in Plano, Texas, is one ++ of the nation's most successful department store companies.

Shopping is only one component of Stargazer. Mr. Plumb said Bell Atlantic believes entertainment -- especially movie rentals -- will be the "anchor" that draws customers into the mall.

At the beginning of the trial, customers will be able to view product videos and place orders by dialing an 800 line. Truly interactive on-line ordering, using a remote unit to communicate directly through the television, will come sometime later next year, the company said.

Mr. Plumb emphasized that the agreement contemplated a six-month trial, with the hope that the three retailers would stay on for the full-scale rollout of the service. The spokesman said that in choosing retailers Bell Atlantic was looking for partners that had a record of customer satisfaction, strong brand names and the financial strength to absorb some losses in the trial.

"This really is a research and development project right now," said Mr. Plumb.

Bell Atlantic is counting heavily on the success of its video services to offset the coming of competition in the local telephone business. It has filed a series of permit applications with the FCC outlining plans to bring video services to the most populous areas of Maryland starting next year.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.