The effects of the coronavirus pandemic bankrupted many U.S. retailers—Dressbarn, Steinmart, and Pier 1 Imports, to name a few. Now two investors hope to salvage another former shopping standby: RadioShack. Can the once-popular electronics chain return from the brink of death . . . again?
This year would be “The Shack’s” 100th birthday. But RadioShack hasn’t had cause to celebrate for a decade. Its peak was in the pre-personal computer days of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Back then, RadioShack was the go-to place for radios, walkie-talkies, and the parts to fix or build them.
But RadioShack didn’t fare well in the PC boom that began in the mid-80s. The brand’s Tandy computers were no match for Commodore 64s, Spectrums, and the first tiny, boxy Apple computers that found their way into individual homes. Then the portable device revolution of the early 2000s left RadioShack drifting toward total extinction. Its last profitable year was 2011. RadioShack filed for bankruptcy protection in 2015—and again two years later.
Last year, investors Alex Mehr and Tai Lopez bought the failing company. Their plan is peddling tech gadgets online instead of hawking them in costly street shops or rented mall spaces.
Mehr and Lopez’s company is Retail Ecommerce Ventures (REV). REV busies itself buying other companies that bellied up during the pandemic, including the ones listed earlier.
With RadioShack, REV owners say the path back to success starts with the RadioShack name. “Brand means trust,” Mehr says, “and the brand is very, very strong.” He insists there’s data to back that up—despite the fact that today’s younger target consumers may have never even owned a radio.
REV’s plan is to build an online marketplace featuring the RadioShack brand. REV’s method recognizes a biblical principle: Having a good name is better than having riches. (See Proverbs 22:1.)
Mehr and Lopez say trust in the name will attract customers to their website. There they hope plentiful, quality merchandise will encourage shoppers to click the “Buy” button for batteries, phone chargers, and headphones.
REV’s challenge is the retail giant Amazon. The online mega-retailer has negatively impacted competitors in industries from groceries to global shipping. Marketing strategist Allen Adamson calls Amazon “the Death Star.” He says, “They have everything, and it’s easy and fast. There’s no need to go to your corner RadioShack to find something, or even to RadioShack online.”
What hope does a relic from the 1980s have?
Mehr sees things differently. He doesn’t view Amazon as a competitor—just another channel where RadioShack can sell products.
“It’s like a big mall with a lot of traffic,” Mehr says, “another distribution channel for us.”
If he’s right, RadioShack could be poised for a comeback—without a radio in sight.