Radio Shack Once Again Crawls Out of the Grave

Radio Shack Once Again Crawls Out of the Grave
Photo: Joe Raedle / Staff, Getty Images
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Radio Shack, the once-popular U.S. electronics chain, went bankrupt in 2015 and again in 2017. The physical stores, once a nerd’s paradise full of electronic components and computer gear, closed one by one, and a company called Retail Ecommerce Ventures (REV) bought the brand and most of the company’s assets.

Fast forward a few years and, once again, Radio Shack seems to be rising from the grave. REV is planning to turn the electronics store into an e-commerce site to rival Best Buy.

“The ultimate objective here is really not reviving [the RadioShack] brand — it is to create a massive online shopping mall,” REV CEO Alex Mehr said to Adweek. “Imagine the shopping malls that you and I grew up with. They had a lot of familiar brands, and the collective gravitational pulls brought people in. That’s what we’re creating.”

The goal, then, is to create a sort of e-commerce hub where you can visit REVs other brands like Pier 1 Imports and Dressbarn and then stop into Radio Shack for a remote-controlled car. Mehr noted that Best Buy is the “seventh-largest online e-commerce store in the United States” with few competitors.

The idea isn’t awful. Retailers saw three dozen massive bankruptcies in 2020 and 8,400 stores closed last year. Some, like New York’s famous Century 21, went bankrupt but are reorganising with a focus on online sales. But many won’t return, turning shopping centres and malls into ghost towns. By recreating the physical shopping experience and capturing the consumer inside a virtual mall, REV could bring once mall-going consumers into a post-covid reality. While it won’t make the Radio Shack of yore come back, it does mean the old brand can get a facelift and, hopefully, regain some of its older, loyal customers.