In recent years, RadioShack has found itself in serious trouble. In fact, compared to what it's stock was worth in July 2007, RadioShack's stock has lost over 95 percent of its value in just the last seven years.

Thanks to a team-up with CBX, the same branding firm that reimagined Duane Reade, RadioShack is trying to get back to the roots of what made the company great.

As part of an aggressive redesign across its 8,000 retail locations, the electronics retailer is trying to marry the RadioShack of the '80s--a neighborhood meeting hall for tinkerers, makers, and electronics enthusiasts--with the sophisticated, experiential design of the post-Apple age.

For its rebranding, RadioShack is trying to get this mojo back. The company is embracing the maker spirit, turning space back over to such gear as 3-D printers and robot sets.

In RadioShack's new Boston custom concept store, there is meeting space in the back to encourage DIY types to come in and collaborate on projects.

And although much of RadioShack's floor space still goes to smartphones, the company is trying to do a better job of integrating the phones into the company's maker heritage.

And although much of RadioShack's floor space still goes to smartphones, the company is trying to do a better job of integrating the phones into the company's maker heritage.

Another central tenet of the RadioShack redesign is interactivity. In an age of ubiquitous online shopping, people go into physical stores to experience the products they want to buy before actually buying them.

The new RadioShack lets customers try out headphones or speakers for themselves, and lends a hand with sleek touchscreen displays that let shoppers compare and contrast different models with just a tap.

But, ultimately, the rebrand is about is getting back to a place where makers once more feel comfortable walking into a RadioShack and making their inventions a reality. RadioShack intends to rigorously pursue this initiative as it continues to rebrand its retail stores in 2014.

Co.Design

How RadioShack Got Its Groove Back

The beleaguered electronics retailer wants to get back to its roots: being MacGyver to MacGyvers.

During the Super Bowl, RadioShack aired an ad that kicked off the retailer's new "Do It Together" marketing campaign. Two zoned-out red shirts stand in an old outlet-mall RadioShack store. The doors bust open. Enter Hulk Hogan, Cliff from Cheers, Mary Lou Retton, Alf, Sargeant Slaughter, and others. They scour the premises for their favorite stuff and carry everything out the door, leaving the red shirts standing alone in the dust. The tagline? "The '80s called. They want their store back."

Cool ad, but it missed the point. It's the Radio Shack of the 2000s, and even the 2010s, that people hate. Some crappy smartphone outlet store replaced the RadioShack many of us knew and loved. Many of us are still nostalgic for the original do-it-yourself store of the '80s--a place of weird computers, cool robot kits, strange circuit breakers, and random electronic circuitry that taught many of us to love tech. That's the store--in spirit, at least--that we want back. And thanks to a team-up with CBX, the same branding firm that reimagined Duane Reade, RadioShack is trying to get back to the roots of what made the company great.

In recent years, RadioShack has found itself in serious trouble. In fact, compared to what its stock was worth in July 2007, RadioShack's stock has lost more than 95% of its value in just the past seven years. In 2013, RadioShack lost $3.04 per share; the losses causes the once ubiquitous electronics outlet in March to announce the closure of 1,100 stores. And in 2012, the board fired the company's CEO as well as replaced most of the senior executive team. The message was clear: RadioShack either needs to find its way in a post-Apple age, or die out for good.

As part of an aggressive redesign across its 8,000 retail locations, the electronics retailer is trying to marry the RadioShack of the '80s--a neighborhood meeting hall for tinkerers, makers, and electronics enthusiasts--with the sophisticated experiential design today's consumers have come to expect.

"When we started talking to customers to see how to remake RadioShack, what we discovered was whether they loved us or hated us, they still had a lot of passion for the brand," says RadioShack chief marketing officer Jennifer Warren. "For the people who hated it when RadioShack started focusing on smartphones, they still had positive memories of RadioShack from the '80s as this place where inventors and makers got their start."

New York Custom Concept Store, Interactive Toy Display

For its rebranding, RadioShack is trying to get this mojo back. The company is embracing the maker spirit, turning space back over to such gear as 3-D printers and robot sets. In RadioShack's new Boston custom concept store, there is meeting space in the back to encourage DIY types to come in and collaborate on projects. And although much of RadioShack's floor space still goes to smartphones, the company is trying to do a better job of integrating the phones into the company's maker heritage.

"It's important to realize that mobility has been a part of RadioShack's heritage ever since the days of pocket FM radios," says Merianne Roth, RadioShack's vice president of communications. "We might not have gotten the balance right in the past, but if you look at how people use smartphones these days, it's the thing that connects all these other things in your life. It's how makers control all of the cool things that they make. And that's something we really want to highlight."

Another central tenet of the RadioShack redesign is interactivity. In an age of ubiquitous online shopping, people go into physical stores to experience the products they want to buy before actually buying them. The new RadioShack lets customers try out headphones or speakers for themselves and lends a hand with sleek touchscreen displays that let shoppers compare and contrast different models with just a tap.

As part of its rebrand, RadioShack is also trying to more clearly establish the store's position as a part of local heritage. In three custom concept stores, the nearly 100-year-old chain incorporates distinctive visual elements of each location--Fort Worth, Manhattan, and Boston--into the in-store aesthetic. Not every store will get this personalized treatment, but in the case of the recently opened Boston custom concept store, the store's sleek interactive interior is set in relief by reclaimed wood and hemp rope evocative of the tall clipper ships of Boston Harbor's famous waterfront.

But, ultimately, the rebrand is about is getting back to a place where makers once more feel comfortable walking into a RadioShack and making their inventions a reality. RadioShack intends to rigorously pursue this initiative as it continues to rebrand its retail stores in 2014.

"Historically, RadioShack has been the MacGyver for MacGyvers, the place where makers who know how to do 80 percent of what they want to accomplish go to get the next 20 percent," Roth says. "So that's what we're trying to get back to. The only difference is that everyone is a MacGyver now, which means we've got to step up our game."

[Images: Courtesy of RadioShack]

Add New Comment

17 Comments

  • Scott Nushart

    I find it interesting that this article would appear. Having been the best friend of a Radio Shack store in Montana in the 1970's, this 'best and brightest' approach was their buzzword back then, and they couldn't follow through at that time!

    The stores were perennially understocked and overpriced compared with, well, everyone. I used to get a kick out of the local stores when I was looking at spending my hard-earned lawn mowing money on some stereo speakers. Each of four local stores each had ONE stereo speaker of a given model. Hunh? The Radio Shack moniker is as dated as the management approaches they apply.

  • Christopher Thomas

    Showroom space - link up with Amazon to have pick up deliveries made at each location.

    Radio Shack has a portfolio of long term leases in decent retail locations ... they're sales model has just been crush though.

  • Knowledgeable, educated employees cost money -- the same money everyone is complaining about paying. Radio Shack has done a poor job of investing in its own infrastructure and as a result are attempting to "pretty" themselves up with sleek new packaging and branding. Not. Like the bookstores that began selling everything but books (you can order them from our .com though...) Radio Shack has failed to reinvest in the one component that made them necessary from the start -- technological expertise.

  • Diana Fryc

    RS will need to stay operationally committed to this change, and continue to respond to market changes (ie, knowledgable employees). Otherwise it will be more of the same with a very quick, but very pretty and shop-able, death.... Quirky advertising will not save them.

  • OK here's a thought.

    Call Henry Winkler Productions and Paramount and buy the rights to the name MacGuyver.

    Rename the thing.

    Or call it Maker Place or Maker Planet or something.

    I think it's time for the name Radio Shack to retire.

  • I used to know RadioShack as a place I could go for advice I could trust about components and gear. I'd go to find a cable, a rechargeable battery, maybe an antenna . I knew, too, that I could go in to get resistors and such in the back. It seemed like they had everything. I think it was during the 80s and 90s (even before the cell phone revolution) that this started to change, and they started to cater more toward the average consumer. Still, it seemed relevant. Going in was like an accessible Sharper Image; high-tech stuff you couldn't find everywhere. Unfortunately, now as technology is everywhere, RadioShack is largely irrelevant. They'll need innovative products that truly underscore this "maker" attitude – not just the same old crap repackaged in the name of following a trend.

  • Aside from the ridiculous prices for crap components that RS has become synonymous with the past couple of decades, I have a real problem with the staff that now inhabits most of their stores. It used to be you would go in and be able to at least bounce ideas off of the sales associates as they were also electronics enthusiasts and knowledgeable about how things work. The last few times I was in, it was a challenge to find someone who could do basic mathematical recognition. I have had sales associates who could not seem to grasp that $35 is significantly less than $100. Asking them to then look at the cost over time if that is a monthly charge, you could short circuit what brain capacity they did have. You think I'm really going to trust asking that person if a particular cable can handle the capacity I want to run through it? Not a chance!

  • RS owned the personal computer space back in the early 80's and lost it. They lost the hobbyist market when they started being a cell phone store. They forgot who their core customers where, and have suffered because of it. I think they have a chance of getting them back either, we have all moved to online sources for materials. Who needs overpriced rebranded audio and computer equipment? Sorry RS, you lost your chance with me and those I know. We all use DigiKey now.

  • The only time I went into a Radioshack store in 20 years is when I was looking for a button cell battery that powered an aged toy. I am glad that they finally recognize a store that sells gadgets should never look like a convenience store. It's the first baby step.

  • Evan Nass

    There were a few times where I wanted something immediately rather than wait for shipping and I was thus willing to pay double the price but when I get to Radioshack, I quickly realize it's not double the price. Its 100 times the price! I think over the past 3 years I've gone in four times for "now" products and each and every time it is so grossly overpriced that I don't buy it. I feel like Amazon should buy Radioshack. Everyone who walks in says "screw this, I'll buy it from Amazon for a 100th the price."

    It's also only used by ghetto people who don't have credit cards and/or internet access so they aren't aware that an HDMI cable actually costs 3 bucks and not 30 bucks. If Radisohack were smart they would cater to the ghetto people. Sell sneakers, shirts and some Beats headphones. Call it the Shaq and make that puppy profitable. Because there is little more profitable than shirts, sneakers and grossly overpriced headphones.

  • Radio Shack will never return to the old glory of the 70's and early 80's when it was the place to go for cool stuff. The paper catalog was the best and brought coolness to the entire experience. Fry's and Microcenter have taken over the retail sector that Radio Shack once owned and Radio Shack will never get it back. Uneducated employees and overpriced components and the Internet have killed a once great store. Sometimes you just have to cut your loses and shut down quietly. If Radio Shack executives just can't see that, it may just be too late to throw money at it.

  • Let's hope they also revamp their staff, who, for the most part are former McDonald's workers who don't know a potentiometer from a battery clip. I remember the days when I could go to The Shack with a component, show the guy behind the register, and he knew where to find it.

  • We had Tandy - which was RadioShack in the UK - many of the goods were branded RadioShack. We now have Maplin which is OK, but not quite cutting it. Maplin is in need of a community of 'Makers' that Maplin should encourage. There's lots of companies on line like coolcomponents that are starting to sell electronic components in an inspiring way now.

  • instead of changing their look, how about they focus on changing their prices. ESPECIALLY on the electrical components. Total rip. IMO Fry's Electronics will always be the better and more knowledgeable store.