RadioShack Rolls Out NYC Concept Store, Hoping To Learn What Works

Struggling RadioShack (NYSE:RSH) opened a prototype store in New York City last week, one of a planned series of concept stores that CEO Joseph Magnacca hopes will help revive the chain, Drug Store News reported on Tuesday (July 2).

The prototype store has an Apple-like look—hardwood floors, more white paint, display fixtures set at an angle—and adds specially configured displays for smartphone brands like Apple, Samsung and HTC. The store also includes touchscreen displays for describing products and a speaker wall that lets customers compare speakers by playing music from their own Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices.

The 4,300-store chain plans to open several more prototypes in New York, New Jersey and Texas over the next several weeks. The store layouts will be customized based on location and local buying patterns, and the features that work will be used for future retrofits and remodels of the rest of the chain.

Prototyping is a smart idea, and using a variety of prototypes is even smarter—what works on the Upper West Side of Manhattan won't necessarily play in the Midwest. Staff training is also going to be crucial, because RadioShack has a long history of associates who fall at two extremes: those who know the store (and the inventory) like the back of their hands, and those who couldn't possibly be more clueless. Like Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), RadioShack may have to pile a training budget on top of the remodel budget for its traditionally crowded stores.

But maybe the cleverest feature of this prototype is the Bluetooth-enabled try-it-yourself speaker wall. Never mind that customers won't really be able to get an idea of how the speakers will sound at home—at least they'll have the feeling that they got to try the speakers out before buying them. Most consumer-electronics customers have been burned often enough by bad guesses or, worse, associates that really want to kick some tires. By scratching that itch, RadioShack might be able to convince some customers that it's worth a visit. Then the test will be to see if those newly trained associates can convert those visits into sales.

For more:

- See this Drug Store News story

Related stories:

Even RadioShack Can't Make Money On Mobile Phones Now
RadioShack Rep Used Customer Data To File False Tax Returns. Why Is RadioShack Even Still Collecting SS Numbers?