Otto Versand to Test Home Supermarket Service

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HAMBURG, Germany - Otto Versand, the world's largest mail order house, plans to enter the home delivery market for food and drink items as "Otto-Supermarket-Service."

The company signed a joint venture agreement Sept. 30 with CITTI, a little-known supermarket chain headquartered in the northern German port city of Kiel.

The partners plan to test the service in the Hamburg region early next year and run the test through 2000 before expanding it into 11 other German regions and eventually across the country.

Otto plans to list 2,500 to 3,000 fresh food and drink items in a catalog of several hundred pages to be dropped to a house file three or four times a year. Items will also be listed, and updated frequently, on the Internet.

Customers can order via fax, phone or the Internet. Available items cover the gamut from fruit, vegetables, dairy products and sausages to beer and household cleaning products. Order placed before noon are delivered the same day. Otto will put a special night service in place that allows customers to place orders after 6 p.m. - highly unusual in Germany where stores close early.

Payment modalities are the same as for other Otto products, usually upon receipt of a bill following delivery of goods. A small service charge will be placed on smaller orders.

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