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AT&T, iMall open bargain store

AT&T is paying no mind to the cynicism about online malls. It is opening a new online store especially for bargain hunters

AT&T's (T) Internet access service, WorldNet, and Web mall operator iMall (IIML) opened a new bargain storefront for brand-name merchandise.

Called AT&T Market Square Deals, the storefront offers discontinued or close-out items at 20 percent off with no shipping or handling charges.

"The mall concept is very far from dead," said Richard Rosenblatt, iMall executive vice president, commenting on news yesterday that IBM is pulling the plug on its Internet mall, World Avenue. "For a lot of big companies, their core competency is not running a mall. We've been doing it since 1994."

Also yesterday, America Online expanded its agreement with direct marketer CUC International to add shopping options to AOL.

But the new bargain storefront is opening with skimpy offerings. Only six items are offered in iMall's version of Deals, and AT&T WorldNet's public page doesn't even include a link to the new store. But iMall also links to an existing "hot deals" area in its mall, with 22 products listed.

The discount outlet hopes to capitalize on the 950,000 AT&T WorldNet customers who use the service as their gateway to the Internet, hoping to draw bargain hunters from that group. All orders, searches, and payments are handled by iMall servers, not AT&T's own Web hosting service.

iMall, which says it hosts 1,600 merchants on its mall, claims more than 1 million visitors monthly.