RadioShack prepares to make a splash with a new flagship store

Posted Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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RadioShack will make a high-tech splash when it returns to downtown Fort Worth with the opening of a custom concept store in Sundance Square on Wednesday, but it’s not forgetting its heritage.

“You’re going to like it a lot,” said CEO Joe Magnacca, who took the helm of the Fort Worth-based consumer electronics chain in February. “It’s more about Fort Worth and RadioShack than it is about anything else. It’s a one-of-a-kind store. It’s our entry back into the community. We’re really trying to step it up.”

The store is being dedicated to the late Lewis Kornfeld, who was RadioShack’s president from 1970 to 1981 and is probably best-known for the company’s first mass-marketed personal computer, the TRS-80. He died in August. A plaque honoring him will hang in the store.

RadioShack is retooling all of its 4,400 company-owned stores, of which 35 are being set up in its new concept, a more contemporary look with products better displayed to improve the shopping experience. Highly interactive, it also aims to attract younger consumers who might not realize RadioShack has the latest in hip technology.

The Sundance Square store goes a step beyond the new concept. It has a retro touch to its decor and references to its Fort Worth beginnings, but the look and feel is very different, Magnacca said. “It will be a must-see,” he said.

Among the most popular brands of televisions, headphones and speakers on display will be a throwback: the so-called “flavor” transistor radios RadioShack sold back in the day. They were so named because of the colors they came in.

The store’s exterior will boast flags bearing company logos from the ’20s, ’50s, ’70s and ’90s, all leading up to the current red, circle-R logo over the door. The logos will be projected in a spinning fashion on the sidewalk below, but will stop turning when stepped on.

It didn’t seem possible to Magnacca, a veteran merchant, that the company didn’t have a downtown store when he took over as CEO. The last store, which was at the entrance of its headquarters on Belknap Street, closed when the property was sold to the Tarrant County College District some years ago. That location was too far from shoppers, Magnacca said.

The Sundance Square store is at the southwest corner of Third and Commerce streets, neighbor to a new Del Frisco’s Grille in The Commerce Building, a five-story office building that’s the eastern bookend of the new Sundance Square Plaza. The plaza will open to the public on Friday after 18 months of construction.

Magnacca sees Sundance Square Plaza creating energy and expects the store to become a destination. He committed to the space after only seeing drawings from Sundance Square executives earlier this year.

By early November, RadioShack stores nationwide will have been touched in some way. In addition to the 35 concept stores, another 100 stores will receive a total makeover, 2,000 stores will get painted and new decor, and 2,200 stores will get a new assortment of products, but not the new look. The company has 33 Tarrant-area stores.

It’s all part of Magnacca’s turnaround strategy for the struggling company. Last week, the retailer reported a $112 million third-quarter loss and said it was borrowing $835 million to improve its liquidity.

Magnacca said RadioShack had less than a month to pull the store together once Sundance Square allowed them in the building to complete the finish-out work. Design plans began in June and crews were working feverishly last week to complete displays so teams can come in and stock the store.

It is the only store that will have a display that replicates the control panel in a real radio shack, a naval term used to describe the place on a ship’s deck that houses its radio equipment. It’s also, of course, the store’s namesake. The display showcases speakers.

Most of the displays are interactive, allowing shoppers to see how the product works. Mirrors are being added to the display of headphones, because shoppers want to see how they look wearing them, Magnacca said.

“Headphones are not just sound. It’s about look and feel; where does technology meet fashion, where do those two things come together. We want to leverage that,” he said.

RadioShack grew from a “do-it-yourself” concept, and that still holds true. The store has a section devoted to customers who still want to make things.

“We believe the old do-it-yourself RadioShack customer is not disappearing. It’s evolving,” Magnacca said. “That’s where the expertise of RadioShack comes in handy. You’ll see a lot of our focus on our holiday campaign around that customer.”

November becomes a break-out month for the retailer, in part because of the upcoming holiday season, he said. Customers can expect to see a lot of remote-controlled toys pushed to the front of stores. The company plans two pop-up stores in New York City with only holiday-related items, Magnacca said.

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727 Twitter: @SandraBakerFWST

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