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At 99 cents, 'something new' is a bargain for these bridal gifts


LOS ANGELES -- It was meant to be a joke. But the recession got the last laugh when more than 500 callers responded to an ad for a new bridal registry service offered by the 99 Cents Only Stores.

Brides and their gift-hunting pals were invited to inquire about the registry's debut with a call to the discount chain, which advertises household products for sale for under a dollar. The chain's managers knew that their inexpensive products were popular, especially during a recession; but none believed that customers would seriously consider Ajax cleanser and a sponge for couples preparing to waltz down the aisle.

"We thought it was kind of funny and we wanted to see what response we'd get," said Mimi Levinson, sales manager for the chain, which is based in the Los Angeles suburb of Vernon. "But those who took it seriously made us think it was a good idea. Unfortunately, it's a sign of the times."

Indeed it is. With the recession hanging over the nation like a shroud rather than a veil, people are looking for more options and practical purchases instead of such traditional and expensive wedding gifts as formal china or crystal.

"It's a fantastic idea, because people often have a lot of showers and it's very nice if someone sends you to the 99 Cents Only Store," said Barbara Tober, editor in chief of Bride's and Your New Home magazines. "The economy would certainly show an interest in that at this point."

More specialty stores are offering registry services, Ms. Tober said. Lovebirds with particular interests can register at gourmet, liquor, hardware and even record stores.

Although the 99 Cents Only Stores' bridal registry ad was created as a joke, the chain intends to sell gift certificates (in $9 increments). After the enthusiastic response, management is seriously considering developing the bridal service.

When office workers at State Farm Auto Insurance in nearby Cerritos suggested that Jill Savage take advantage of the ad, she laughed. But then reality hit. She realized that her friends would appreciate a less costly gift option for her wedding next month.

"In my case it would be practical," Ms. Savage said. "I don't need the regular things you usually get."

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