Jon Mooallem:

Recently, RadioShack has been forcefully rebranding itself, trying to shed its image as a temple of transistors, parts, and cables. Polished executives have parachuted in from the boardrooms of Safeway, Kmart, and Coca-Cola to turn the iconic American retailer around after years of underperformance and uncertainty. (In 2007, The Onion summed up the brand’s decline with the satiric headline “Even CEO Can’t Figure Out How Radioshack Still in Business.”)

The plan? The new bosses want to turn RadioShack into a hipper, more mainstream place for “mobility” — which is what they insist on calling the cell phone market. (In an interview, RadioShack’s marketing chief used the word mobility an average of once every 105 seconds.) Selling phones is central to the new RadioShack. And so far, it seems to be working. Per-store sales are up, and corporate profits jumped 26 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009.

My last year in college in the senior capstone course, I with two other people wrote what basically amounted to our thesis (for lack of a better word) on RadioShack. At that time we recommended that RadioShack seek to acquire or merge with a GameStop type retailer. Our thought was that the small size of RadioShacks combined with the sheer number of them (5,800 or so stores) would make for great video games sales locations.

Now that did not and will not happen at this point. RadioShacks problems stem even deeper than most people think, they have a severe identity crisis as is apparent in this article. It used to be that all RadioShack salespeople knew how to fix stuff, they were very knowledgeable about the technology of the day. And while that may be more difficult to do today, it does not make up for the fact that most of their employees are clueless (based on my own experience).

Trying to stay profitable with mobile phones is stupid, almost as stupid as calling them “mobility”. RadioShack should go back to being a repair shop, leverage brains and expertise. There are tons of people who make money repairing water damaged phones and computers. Replacing iPhone screens and so on. I would go to RadioShack if they had a new back cover for my iPhone and could replace it for me right then and there, wouldn’t you?

Posted by Ben Brooks