RadioShack revival? CEO says that's what he's after
Ninety-three years is a long time to stay relevant and remain competitive.
That's the challenge facing RadioShack. The retailer's 4,300 stores look dated and overstuffed with merchandise. But CEO Joe Magnacca said he is staging an intervention—leading a transformation of the consumer electronics retailer.
Despite recent market speculation, Magnacca said it's not an effort to build up the company for a sale, but rather to regain lost sales and traffic.
"I was brought in to help transform this business and the team that I'm putting in place is focused on rebuilding RadioShack," Magnacca told CNBC. "We're in a great space relative to technology. It's a brand that really in the past has kind of lost its way."
"Our job is to really reinvigorate the brand ... to rebuild confidence in RadioShack and bring back those lost generations of folks that we have lost over the last few years," he said.
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BB&T Capital Markets analyst Anthony Chukumba said even if Magnacca did want to sell RadioShack, it's not a viable take out candidate right now.
"The notion that anyone is going to buy RadioShack is tomfoolery, quite frankly," Chukumba said. "There are no likely strategic buyers for this asset. Best Buy would not be interested. Amazon would not be interested. Wal-Mart would not be interested. And a financial sponsor really can't do a deal for RadioShack. Given their recent financial struggles, they just wouldn't be able to raise the necessary debt financing to complete a leverage buyout transaction."
RadioShack's stock is a shell of what it once was. The shares hit a peak in 1999, with a record close of $78.50. Today the stock's trading at about $3.19 per share. All told, the retailer has lost 98 percent of its $15.18 billion market cap over the last 14 years, and now sits at just $317 million. (For the latest stock price click here.)
But the former Walgreen executive does see value in RadioShack's brand and hopes the new strategy will unlock value for consumers and shareholders.
Magnacca took the helm at RadioShack in February and announced his strategy to turn around the company on July 1. The strategy runs the gamut from changing the company's colors and updating its logo to reimagining its stores and changing its product branding and assortment.
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Transformations on any level are expensive undertakings, just ask J.C. Penney. Since the new plans were revealed, some investors are questioning RadioShack's liquidity, but Magnacca says cash isn't an issue.
"Our cash statement is very strong, and as you know we have a payment coming up and we're not at all concerned we can pay that off in cash," Magnacca said. "We have been talking to bankers about the opportunity about refinancing some of that debt."
Reaction to the reinvention
Wall Street analysts do think the new format stores look better, but aren't sure it's enough to truly make RadioShack competitive against rivals like Best Buy or Amazon or big-box retailers like Wal-Mart, Target and Costco. Still, investors love a comeback story and some are buying into RadioShack's plan and the retailer is garnering new attention. The shares are up 48 percent in 2013.
In a note to investors, Janney Capital Markets analyst David Strasser said he likes the new store format but doesn't think it's a complete panacea for the retailer's troubles.
"[We think] it provides some strategic answers and a new direction, but new store formats are a long way from fixing what ails companies, especially one with 4,300 stores around the country," Strasser said.
In a way, Chukumba said, he and others have been waiting for RadioShack's demise for years and years, but it's never happened.
"I'm slightly optimistic given the fact that they do have a Joe Magnacca there," Chukumba said. "He has very strong experience [particularly from his time] at the Duane Reade drugstore chain under Walgreen. He developed the private-label program. He developed a customer loyalty program. So the fact that they were able to hire someone of his caliber is somewhat telling."
Shoppers at the new concept store on New York's Upper West Side do seem impressed with what they found inside from the products to the new, less cluttered format.
"I was looking for the iPod fourth generation, and Best Buy and P.C. Richard didn't have it, but RadioShack did. I will definitely come back," said RadioShack shopper Ray Perez.
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Another shopper, Nicole Trow, said she was surprised by the store's new appearance. "It looks attractive," she said. "I like the way it's set up, it's very modern and easy to get to things. I find it's set up more easily for the average customer that's not as technologically savvy, like me."
While not all locations will be transformed to what Magnacca called "high touch," many will be revamped on some level. The relatively small size of the locations makes remodeling much easier and it can be done much more quickly than what Magnacca helped develop at Walgreen.
But most agree, it's going to take more than just cleaner-looking stores to win in the highly competitive consumer electronics market.
"I think the greatest strength that RadioShack has is ubiquity," Chukumba said. "RadioShack, it's right around your corner, it's kind of your neighborhood consumer electronics store."
"But in terms of getting more enthusiastic about the stock, I would just have to see some concrete signs that Magnacca's turnaround plan is gaining traction and they can become relevant again."
—By CNBC's Courtney Reagan. Follow her on Twitter @CourtReagan.