InMarket: The holidays (and RadioShack) get weird

Robert Francis

Fort Worth’s RadioShack Corp. may have more than a few challenges these days, but when it comes to commercials they’ve found gold lately. The latest is a Christmas season commercial starring Weird Al Yankovic, rock parodist, video pioneer and accordionist. In a new commercial available on YouTube, Yankovic stars as a RadioShack salesman who sings a song about the retailer’s Toyland as the place to get gifts, “for girls and boys and even cousin Bob, who’s 43 and lives at home.” At the end of his pitch, a drone flies down and lands on Yankovic’s falconry-gloved hand. Also in the commercial is actress Alison Becker, who appears often on NBC’s Parks and Recreation. Her Texas connection? She has a dog named Dignan after Owen Wilson’s character in the Texas-filmed Bottle Rocket movie. Oh, the things one can learn from someone’s blog site. At the end of the ad, she asks about batteries and Yankovic acts, well, like he’s very, very excited to discuss the topic.

The ad was posted on YouTube on Nov. 7 with the tag line: “The holidays are getting weird at RadioShack. And by weird we mean awesome. And by awesome we mean get up to 50 percent off all smart gifts. #GiftSmart with RadioShack.” RadioShack could do with a big ol’ dose of awesome, but this commercial along with its 2014 Super Bowl commercial titled, “The Phone Call,” featuring icons from 1980s pop culture, have given the struggling electronics retailer a bit more credibility. Anybody remember “The Shack” campaign from a few years ago? Didn’t think so. RadioShack’s advertising and media partner, Austin-based GSD&M, produced the “Phone Call” spot as well as the Yankovic ad. While RadioShack is working on its turnaround, Yankovic has accomplished one of his own. The star of ’80s rock music video parodies such as “Eat It” and “I Lost on Jeopardy,” released his album Mandatory Fun in July and earned his first No. 1 on the Billboard 200. I’ve got to admit his “Party in the U.S.A.” parody, “Party in the C.I.A.,” has some pretty funny lines. Sample lyric: “You need a quickie confession? We’ll start a waterboarding session!” Hey, if someone who plays the accordion can get hip again, RadioShack may have some hope yet.

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We’re open, sort of The scion of Tandy Corp. is also joining the list of retailers opening on Thanksgiving to garner shoppers who just can’t wait and want to avoid Black Friday and maybe their family. For the country’s biggest retailers, Black Thursday business has simply proven too attractive. Gorilla-in-the-room Wal-Mart will be open all day, with the best deals and no doubt some fisticuffs, starting right around dinner time. J.C. Penney, Best Buy and Toys“R”Us will open at 5 p.m., and Kohl’s, Macy’s, Sears and Target will open at 6. Some of the stores will stay open all night and marathon into Black Friday: Kmart will let shoppers in at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving and stay open for 42 hours straight. Hint: If you want to avoid your family, go work at Kmart.

Several retailers, like RadioShack, could use all the buying help they could get over the holidays. Target, which will open two hours earlier than it did last Thanksgiving, has been seeing fewer customers and has resorted to closing some of its big-box stores following credit card hacks last year. RadioShack will open more than 3,000 stores Thanksgiving morning for the first time ever, after losing revenue 10 quarters in a row. After initially announcing they would be open, RadioShack officials backtracked a bit. After hearing from their employees, company officials said the stores will open at 8 a.m., but then close between noon and 5 p.m., then reopen until midnight. You may need a programmable clock from RadioShack just to keep up. The retail gimmicks don’t stop with opening on Thanksgiving: Dallas-based Twin Peaks does plan to take “half off” on Friday by having many of their waitresses model black lingerie while serving customers.

Happy Weird Holidays