The demise of RadioShack is a lesson for all retailers

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

15 September 2014

Some will listen, some won’t

Adapting to change is the precursor to success, an adage that many retailers fail to understand. When we took a look at the retail industry, we found that many lost retailers that were hanging on to old business models and advertising with excepted messaging. There was little new and fresh happening.

That’s why the news of RadioShack filing bankruptcy is no surprise, nor is its attempt to raise cash to close more stores (it costs money on the front end to close stores). Basically, RadioShack is going the way of Borders, Circuit City, Coldwater Creek and so many other retailers that die a confused, painful death.

Because they did not adapt to change.

We’ve talked about Radio Shack before and our basic thrust about its failure wasn’t just in the tiny offerings the retailer offered or even about it failing to identify what it was. (Lately, it’s been in the business of selling cheap phones.) It failed to adjust on a brand level to change.

"The Shack" was a failure because it was a refusal to change

“The Shack” was a failure because it was a refusal to change

As you might remember, Radio Shack at one point attempted to be known as the “The Shack.” Well, it flopped, of course, because it was the retailer only being half-pregnant with its rebranding effort. It was trying hang on to what it mistakenly thought was a brand equity while attempting to be cool and hip for a new generation. After all, it thought, if the term “radio” was holding it back, let’s just get rid of it.

Instead, RadioShack should have gone all in and completely transformed itself, knowing the landscape had completely changed. It could have tried to understand what the electronics buyer (like me) wanted and aspired to be. Instead, it stood in its tracks, with only a tentative step forward. That was exactly the same strategy Circuit City and Borders took.

They are gone now.

So, retailers, even those in clothing, you are living in a changing climate where you can become irrelevant in a matter of months. Abercrombie & Fitch, one of the “hip” brands of yesteryear, is struggling and going with gimmicks (like its “no logo” approach). The discount stores are consolidating and the big box retailers are all failing at the knee of Walmart.

It’s not that difficult. You need to accept that change is happening and make the honest and brave decisions to change as well.

See more posts in the following related categories: Borders Circuit City Radioshack retail branding retail rebranding

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