RadioShack’s days of future past

Robert Francis

RadioShack cut the ribbon last week on another of the retailer’s new concept stores. This one, though, is cut from a different cloth and illustrates both the Fort Worth-based retailer’s 90-year-plus roots and its still-to-be-determined future. Located in the new Commerce Building in the equally new Sundance Square Plaza, the store re-establishes RadioShack as a key player in downtown Fort Worth’s retail landscape – an imprint the company has lacked since shuttering the store in the old Tandy Tower.

Like other new concept stores, the 2,357-square-foot site is loaded with the latest gadgets, electronics and consumer technology. Since naming former Walgreens executive Joseph Magnacca as CEO, RadioShack has opened a select number of these high-touch stores filled with interactive features and “playful experiences” in high traffic and high profile locations as part of the company’s emphasis on reinvigorating its stores and repositioning the brand. The Fort Worth concept store joins several other concept locations in California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and a just-refurbished location in Montgomery Plaza. The Fort Worth-based retailer opened its first new concept store on June 29 on Broadway in New York City.

The new downtown Fort Worth location includes all the gee-whiz electronics and sensory overload displays, but this location is also different – for instance, you can find the old reliable 1980s-era TRS-80 personal computer in the store. No, you can’t buy it, but it’s part of RadioShack’s salute to both its hometown and its technology-rich history. “When I started investigating the history and heritage here, there’s so much that’s gone on in the past 90 years it would be a shame not to tell everyone about it,” said Michael DeFazio, senior vice president – store concepts. DeFazio joined RadioShack in April, also coming from Walgreens. “It’s something we want to build on. We’ve lost our way the past few years, we’re going to continue to tell people what we’ve done and who we are. We can build on that,” he said.

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Other features of the new store include: Brand evolution banners line the outside of the store with logos dating from 1921 to present day. Interactive projections at the entrance and inside where movement sweeps away the retro RadioShack logo to reveal the new logo introduced in July. Historical videos in store windows highlighting the heritage of RadioShack and Fort Worth history with footage provided by local organizations, including the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau. Interior design features that include elements of a “radio shack” – a ship’s communication center and inspiration for the brand – at the checkout counter as well as retro products displayed throughout the store. Custom Fort Worth uniform shirts featuring a retro logo. The store is dedicated to Lewis Kornfeld, who as president of RadioShack helped the company become a major player in the early personal computer industry. Kornfeld died in August, at 91, but Magnacca said meeting Kornfeld was an inspiration. “I thought I was going for a 60-minute lunch,” said Magnacca. “When I showed up at the restaurant I realized very, very quickly he was going to school me in advertising. In piles of flyers and a pile of catalogs he had an amazing comprehension of the power of advertising and what it could mean to the business. “He helped explain to me where we had lost our way and how we could improve the direction of our business going forward and he did so in a way that was truly supportive.” Magnacca said the decision to open a store in the new Sundance Square Plaza came about very quickly. “We started talking about our presence in Fort Worth and we felt like this just made so much sense,” he said. Sundance Square president and CEO Johnny Campbell said he was planning to talk with RadioShack about a space when the retailer came calling.

“It’s a clear and perfect fit for what we want to do at Sundance Square Plaza,” said Campbell. Magnacca had high praise for working with Sundance Square officials. “I mean look, we were the last to commit and the first to open,” he joked. The Sundance Square store joins the Montgomery Plaza store as the second concept store to open in Fort Worth; however, other area stores are receiving a facelift. More than 70 Dallas-Fort Worth locations have new paint and an all-new internal sign package. All D-FW locations have completed a merchandise update designed to deliver an improved shopping experience and make room for new products in several new categories. In November, all area stores will receive holiday window graphics, in-store displays and a new product assortment. By the end of 2013, RadioShack will have more than 100 concept and brand statement stores open and will have made improvements to nearly all 4,300 stores around the country.

Also making an impact on RadioShack’s new strategy has been its work at another Fort Worth store on Camp Bowie Boulevard. The store has been dubbed the “living lab” by RadioShack officials and serves as the format and testing ground for a scalable store design that will be rolled out to select RadioShack stores in the coming year. According to a RadioShack news release, “this ‘low touch’ approach delivers a more shoppable store requiring minimal investment for maximum impact.”