GROUB SET TO AMPLIFY CELLULAR, PAGER PROGRAM

SEYMOUR, Ind. -- John C. Groub Co. here plans to expand its cellular telephone and pager program with two more larger stores expected to sell the merchandise this fall.Sales of cellular phones and pagers have gradually improved since last December, when the 31-store chain introduced the products in eight stores in time for the fourth quarter.The items are merchandised in a 6-foot by 12-foot freestanding

SEYMOUR, Ind. -- John C. Groub Co. here plans to expand its cellular telephone and pager program with two more larger stores expected to sell the merchandise this fall.

Sales of cellular phones and pagers have gradually improved since last December, when the 31-store chain introduced the products in eight stores in time for the fourth quarter.

The items are merchandised in a 6-foot by 12-foot freestanding kiosk equipped with a 4-foot wide glass showcase. The kiosk, placed in the foyer and front-end of stores, also offers accessories such as carrying cases and power adapters. It is operated by Simply Wireless, Indianapolis, which is the dealer of the products.

Cellular phone and pager sales are "working out fairly well," said Tom Bollinger, vice president and director of operations.

Bollinger said that while sales were slow in the first three months, they are expected to increase over the next few months.

"With summer coming, volume should begin to pick up as people get on the road and start their vacations," he said.

At a Salem, Ind., store, Groub is testing a smaller minikiosk that measures about 4 feet by 6 feet. "It seems to be working out very well," said Bollinger.

Each freestanding kiosk is staffed by a Simply Wireless representative, who sells the equipment and arranges for activation with GTE Mobile Net, Colubus, Ind., the cellular carrier. Customers are charged $35 for a one-year activation contract.

Simply Wireless does not pay rent for the space, but gives Groub an undisclosed percentage of sales. It also funds newspaper ads that carry the Groub logo.

Groub introduced cellular phones and pager sales based on positive reports from other chains, along with efforts to enhance customer service. It has not decided whether the program will be expanded further.

The assortment features well-known brands, such as the Nokea 100 model, which is sold for $1 with activation and $269.95 without. It is the best-selling model, said Randy Dittmer, a Simply Wireless sales representative who operates the kiosk at the Groub store here.

"It's also the most user-friendly," Dittmer added.

Also available is the Nokea 232 model, ticketed at $49.95 with activation and $349.95 without; the Erickson 230, which retails for $1 with activation and at $279.95 without; and the Erickson 320, $49.95 with activation, $319.95 without. The Motorola model 550 flip-phone is available at $9.95 with activation, $299.95 without. Another model is the AT&T 3015C transportable cellular phone, which sells for $1 with activation, $199.95 without. It has 3 watts of power, compared with some handheld cellular phones with six-tenths of a watt of power. Groub offers two Motorola pagers in the Bravo Encore at $59.95 and the Ultra Express, $109.95, and NEC's Executive, $59.95.

Dittmer said the Encore is popular among teenagers because it can save up to four pages, while businesspeople usually opt for the Ultra Express, which is a larger pager that can store eight of 16 pages in memory, and features louder sound alerts.

Customers who purchase a pager are given an 800-service number for a $20 activation fee. The fee provides the first two months' use of the 800 number free.