Will a return to its roots keep RadioShack from short-circuiting?
RadioShack, which dropped to a penny stock in June, is banking on an uncharacteristically strong holiday season just to keep its doors open. One of the beleaguered electronics chain’s newest strategies to score an eleventh hour revival involves going retro to move forward. According to a Fast Company article, RadioShack has begun prominently promoting littleBits, a line of DIY electronics kits meant to appeal to a new generation of inventors and tinkerers.
"Our new leadership team is committed to embracing the parts of our heritage that allow us to differentiate RadioShack in a crowded market," CEO Joe Magnacca said in an interview with Fast Company.
RadioShack’s relationship with nostalgia is a double-edged one. The very name of the store conjures memories of tech hobbies past, from its early days as a source for HAM radio operators to its days selling parts for audiophiles and pre-cellular phone tinkerers. The company’s 2014 Super Bowl commercial features a store associate answering a phone and announcing, "the ’80s called, they want their store back." At that point, the store is ransacked by a slew of figures popular in the 1980s, including wrestler Hulk Hogan, gymnast Mary Lou Retton and alien from the planet Melmac, ALF.
The commercial seemed to make light of the store’s antiquated image, promising a more contemporary RadioShack. But now the chain appears to be looking for salvation in retro appeal.
In addition to its LittleBits announcement, the store has a few other strategies up its sleeve for the holiday season. According to a Star-Telegram article, RadioShack is rolling out ads in movie theaters that offer deals through Shazam or Soundhound apps, free shipping on products out of stock at one RadioShack but available at another, price-matching deals with major e-commerce sites, and a relaunched RadioShack credit card.
While RadioShack is airing a holiday ad featuring "Weird Al" Yankovic promoting their assortment of techie toys and running ads for littleBits as well, visibility has not yet appeared to translate into good news on the financial front.
According to a Bloomberg News article from November 18th, "Monarch Alternative Capital LP abandoned negotiations to take over a $140 million loan to RadioShack Corp. (RSH) as the electronics retailer struggled to reach a deal with lenders on a turnaround plan."
Even in a culture more obsessed with gadgets than ever before, one wonders if littleBits, the self-aware, hip commercials and the price-matching promotions are coming too late to rescue retail’s original gadget outlet.
- RadioShack lines up new products, ads, policies for critical holiday season – Star Telegram
- Hedge Fund Monarch Said to End Talks on RadioShack Loan – Bloomberg
- Can LittleBits Save RadioShack? – Fast Company
- RadioShack is Now a Penny Stock – Time
- RadioShack Super Bowl Commercial – YouTube
Can a strong holiday season, or anything else, save RadioShack? Which of RadioShack’s holiday strategies stands the best chance of making a difference in the company’s ultimate fate?