ATLANTA -- Financial institutions opened 253 branches inside supermarkets and retail stores during the first six months this year, according to International Banking Technologies, a leading consulting firm in the in-store banking field.

The in-store branches totaled 2,191 nationwide, up 13% since Dec. 31 and 25% since midyear 1993.

Among the recent openings were Bank of Oklahoma in a Wal-Mart super center in Bartlesville, Indiana Federal Bank in a Super K mart Center in Portage, and People's Heritage Bank in a Shaw's Supermarket in North Windham, Maine.

John W. Garnett, executive vice president of International Banking Technologies, said the continued growth of in-store branching reflects its lower cost compared with traditional brick and mortar, and financial institutions' belief that higher-technology, interactive delivery systems will have little impact on market share.

"Home banking, either by phone or interactive TV, is a convenience that, in time, consumers may buy into for routine transactions," Mr. Garnett added.

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