Can Service Merchandise Survive?

When Service Merchandise finally filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on March 27, few in the retailing community were surprised. The jewelry/home goods specialty retailer, based in Brentwood, Tenn., has struggled for years. As the last major survivor of the catalog showroom format that prospered in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, Service has seen its sales and profits slip in recent years and has lost market share in key merchandise categories to mega-discounters like Wal-Mart and Kmart and “category killers” like Circuit City. Over the last two years the company has tried desperately to put its catalog showroom past behind it, launching a flurry of initiatives it hopes can put it back on the road to profitability. These have included management shake-ups, massive store closings, multiple new store formats, the elimination of its catalog, a major merchandising and marketing r

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