Top 500 retailer RadioShack files for bankruptcy

February 5, 2015 05:42 PM

(Bloomberg) -- RadioShack Corp., the 94-year-old consumer- electronics chain, filed for bankruptcy with a plan to turn about half of its 4,000 stores into Sprint Corp. locations and close the rest.

“These steps are the culmination of a thorough process intended to drive maximum value for our stakeholders,” Chief Executive Officer Joe Magnacca said in a statement Thursday.

The company said it has an agreement to sell 1,500 to 2,400 of its locations to a unit of Standard General LP, its biggest shareholder. Standard General has a deal with wireless carrier Sprint to set up stores-within-stores at as many as 1,750 locations. The rest will be closed under a deal with a liquidator, Hilco Merchant Resources. The company employs about 21,000 people, full and part time.

The Chapter 11 filing in Delaware underscores the dramatic changes U.S. retailing has undergone since online merchants and big-box stores began supplanting traditional brick-and-mortar chains. The Sprint deal is especially telling, as RadioShack was one of the first mass-market retailers of mobile phones.

[Radio Shack is No. 317 in the 2014 Internet Retailer Top 500, with 2013 web sales estimated at $52 million by Internet Retailer. While there were reports Amazon this week might buy some Radio Shack stores , the retailer made no mention of that in its bankruptcy filing.]

Industry Slump

The Fort Worth, Texas-based company has been trying to compete with Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. while at the same time coping with what Magnacca has called an industrywide slump in demand for consumer electronics.

Since taking over two years ago, Magnacca has changed the product mix and remodeled or closed some locations, to no avail. The company has reported 11 straight quarterly losses, and its shares dropped 86 percent last year.

The bankruptcy represents the endgame for a chain that traces its roots to 1921, when it began as a mail-order retailer for amateur ham-radio operators and maritime communications officers. The company was bought by Tandy Corp. in 1963.

It expanded into a wider range of products over the decades, and by the 1980s was seen as a destination for personal computers, gadgets and components that were hard to find elsewhere.

In 1977, it introduced the first mass-produced personal computer, the TRS-80, which was popular in high-school classes and earned the nickname “Trash 80.” A decade later, it became one of the first retailers of mobile phones.

‘The Shack’

In 2000, Tandy changed its name to RadioShack. An effort to rebrand the retailer as “The Shack” -- de-emphasizing the company’s roots in 1920s technology -- was quickly abandoned.

Since joining in February 2013, Magnacca, a former executive at Walgreen Co., has tried to revive the company with “Let’s Play!” a plan to make the retailer a “neighborhood technology playground.”

He pared clutter, eliminated some small items and introduced interactive features, such as docks for Apple Inc.’s iPhone and walls of speakers. He also introduced the “Fix It Here” on-site repair service for mobile devices at hundreds of locations.

For all its struggles, the company still has some valuable assets, including a famous name that evokes nostalgia among hobbyists and locations at the heart of U.S. cities including New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Sprint and Standard General will be trying to build on that legacy.

The case is In re RadioShack Corp., 15-10197, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).





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