With more than 4,300 locations in North America and 90-plus years of history behind it, there's little doubt that RadioShack is a household name. Recognition is not a problem for the Fort Worth, Texas-based company, but intense competition in the consumer electronic marketplace and common public perceptions about its products and offerings have proven to be challenging to its bottom line in recent years.

“You ask somebody today about RadioShack, and they'd say that's where they go to get batteries or cables; they don't know the relevancy of whom we really are or what we really sell,” Senior Vice President of Store Concepts Michael DeFazio says. “Our demographic today is centered around the male consumer who grew up with the brand. We’re committed to expanding our audience to teens and young adults while continuing to serve our traditional customer.”

The company is working to change that through a new store concept as well as the gradual remodeling of many of its existing locations. “We sell a lot of things consumers don't give us credit for having,” DeFazio says. “We want to transform the company and show people we sell products relevant to today’s trends.”

Interactive Environments

RadioShack opened a new concept store in New York City in June 2013 that is expected to be the first of 15 next-generation retail sites for the company opening this year. July and August saw the opening of two additional concept stores in New York and New Jersey and the announcement of a fourth opening in Fort Worth this fall. More are anticipated in large markets including Chicago and Boston before the end of the year.

The first New York City concept store offers shoppers a dramatically different experience from standard RadioShack locations, with interactive features and reconfigured displays. “We wanted to create excitement around the things we sell and designed the concept stores in a way that makes it clear who we are, what we sell and what we stand for,” DeFazio says. “We wanted a store where people can come and browse to see the latest in technology as well as make a purchase.”

Rather than placing multiple brands of phones or other products on a central table, products are merchandised by brand in displays against the store's wall. “We're merchandising in a way that makes it clear and concise the consumer as to where to find products,” he adds. “If you want to buy an accessory for an iPhone, everything is all in the same area instead of being in different parts of the store.”

Traditionally, consumers would find a phone in one part of the store and find related items such as power cords in individual aisles. “If you want to buy an adapter or a case for the Samsung Galaxy, you can now find it right by that phone, which is how people are used to shopping today,” DeFazio says. “Everything is in the same area, making it easier for people to find what they want.”

Another central feature in the new stores is a “speaker wall” fixture that allows customers to compare speakers by playing music from their own Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices. The store's music shuts off while the wall is in use, giving consumers the chance to hear to hear how any genre of music sounds at various volumes. Other interactive store features include live camera and phone displays, as well a television display that allows shoppers to see what various resolutions and screen sizes will look like on a single screen. 

Future concept store sites will feature a variety of configurations customized based on region. The company's merchandising, marketing and construction departments are all collaborating on the new store plans and conducting market research to determine loyal buying patterns and which sort of products are important to each market.

Keeping the Core

The concept store sites will serve as prototypes that will guide future renovations of all of RadioShack's locations nationwide. Many existing stores will be repainted and re-merchandised within the next few years, and the company also recently developed a new logo that will grace each location. “We're making the look and arrangement of each store more appropriate for who we are as a business,” DeFazio says. “People will see changes to every store over time.”

In addition to the repainting and remodeling plans, RadioShack also is repackaging its private-label brands to give them more prominence within the stores.

Although all of the company's stores will soon take on a new look that its executives feel is more relevant to today's consumer electronics marketplace, the brand's core business in do-it-yourself products won't change. “We sell unique brands that you can only really purchase here and that competitors don't sell,” DeFazio says.  “A large part of our consumer base knows us for DIY products and looks to us for that, and we do not want to alienate our existing consumers. We do want to attract new customers.”

RadioShack's customer service level will also be unchanged. “We're proud of the fact that our in-store staff is well-schooled in helping consumers fix things and giving them direction,” he adds. “Our associates are really into electronics and technology; to me, our competitors are more like a college job, but our associates are more inclined to be people who are interested in that field, and they work here because that's a field they want to pursue.” O