Merry-Go-Round targets teens with phone giveaway

March 30, 1995|By Jay Hancock | Jay Hancock,Sun Staff Writer

In the 1970s, it was the digital wristwatch. The 1980s, the Sony Walkman. Now, says boutique chain Merry-Go-Round, the coolest, gotta-have-it body appliance among teens is the cellular telephone.

Long known for selling trendy apparel but struggling recently to win teens' attention, Merry-Go-Round is trying to boost its rad appeal by giving away a cellular phone with any $30 purchase.

Joppa-based Merry-Go-Round has teamed with phone maker JRC to provide phones for customers of the chain's 500 stores. Chess King, Dejaiz, Cignal and other chains owned by Merry-Go-Round Enterprises Inc. aren't involved.

Customers get a phone certificate that they mail to JRC. Delivery of the phone depends on a clear credit check, parental agreement if necessary and commitment to use a participating local cellular carrier for 12 months. Carriers charge $20 a month or more.

In the two weeks since the promotion started, Merry-Go-Round has given away more than 250,000 certificates, the company said. The deal lasts until May 12.

Chain President Frank Tworecke declined to describe the financial relationship between Merry-Go-Round, JRC and the cellular carriers. But he said the cost to Merry-Go-Round is minimal.

In most cellular-giveaway deals, the cost of the phones is subsidized by carriers who gain subscribers, said Herschel Shosteck, a Silver Spring-based analyst of the wireless industry.

Nobody else is offering cellular phones to sell apparel, Mr. Tworecke said. But giveaways are so popular among carriers that the average retail price of a no-frills phone is far less than its wholesale price of $150 or so, Mr. Shosteck said.

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