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Service Merchandise Picks Paradigm Interactive

Service Merchandise chose Paradigm Interactive, the Internet marketing unit of Paradigm Direct Marketing Inc., to become online agency of record for the retailer as it tries to shed its showroom image and recast itself as more service-friendly.

The Brentwood, TN-based company signed on with Paradigm, Atlanta, to rework its Web site, www.servicemerchandise.com, making it fit the retailer's new customer-focused image. Over the last year, the company has redesigned many of its 359 stores — known for glass-encased displays of silver, jewelry and crystal — so customers now have the ability to touch the products and take items directly off the shelves.

In addition to modeling itself after the retailer's changed design, the Web site will drive customers to the new stores. “The challenge Service Merchandise has had is that they have not had many people realize they've made a real change of strategy on the retail layout,” said Larry Weissman, president of Paradigm.

Weissman declined to disclose billings for the account, whose budget is still being finalized.

Service Merchandise stores now show videos welcoming customers to the “new” Service Merchandise, and the company employs greeters to work its floors. And, unlike the past, when customers placed orders for items, merchandise can now either be taken off the shelf or picked up from behind a counter using a tag system.

Like the new stores, the Web site emphasizes jewelry up front, and sales will revolve largely around holiday events like Valentine's Day, Father's Day and Mother's Day. Known as a gift store, one company goal is to become the “the online jeweler of choice,” Weissman said. Besides jewelry, the online store's goods are broken down into sections similar to those used in the store, including home furnishings, electronics and kitchen and dining.

“More and more retailers and direct response marketers who have a retail presence are really going to have to have a cohesiveness between their Web presence and their retail presence,” Weissman said.

Paradigm is handling all media buying for the site and will advise Service Merchandise on its strategic positioning and Internet initiatives to build a Web brand. Paradigm will accumulate e-mail addresses through customer registration on the Web page, and the agency plans to communicate with those shoppers to drive them back to the site, especially to its jewelry and home furnishings sections.

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