Why RadioShack Will Never Be Great Again

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Why RadioShack Will Never Be Great AgainThere was a time when RadioShack (RSH) mattered.

If your dog chewed through your coaxial cable or your lithium oxide battery-powered watch stopped ticking, it was a short and easy drive to your neighborhood strip mall, where RadioShack was waiting.

Sure, it was creepy that they asked for your phone number -- but how else would you make sure that you got the nifty weekly sale mailings?

Then other retailers began stocking more of the RadioShack essentials. The Internet also leveled the playing field, offering cheaper routes if you were willing to wait a couple of days for blank CDs or a remote-controlled toy car.

Now RadioShack isn't creepy. It's just dead.

When a Retailer Needs Fresh Batteries

The emphasis at RadioShack these days is clear: wireless. It's a one-stop shop for the latest smartphones and your choice of the country's three largest carriers. It's a model so simple that even Best Buy (BBY) -- which itself will never be great again -- is breaking from its cavernous superstore model to open smaller Best Buy Mobile stores that will attack the Shack head on.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but there's no reason for RadioShack to be blushing. It's a financial mess.

Folks just aren't shopping at RadioShack the way they used to. Store-level comps are off by more than 4% through the first nine months of the year, after a similar decline at its stores and wireless kiosks for all of 2010.

Anatomy of a Power Outage

The public doesn't remember the glory days of Tandy computers and blank cassette tapes. All they see now is a barren store in a suburban shopping center wedged between a Subway sandwich shop and a bustling drugstore that stocks many of things that folks used to buy at RadioShack.

The worst thing about RadioShack is that even analysts don't realize how quickly the retailer is fading.

Let's take a peek at the past year of earnings. I'll give you what Wall Street was expecting and what RadioShack actually earned. See if you can spot the problematic trend before I spill the beans at the other end of this table.

EPS est.
EPS
Difference
Q4 2010
$0.53
$0.51
(4%)
Q1 2011
$0.35
$0.30
(14%)
Q2 2011
$0.38
$0.23
(40%)
Q3 2011
$0.36
$0.15
(58%)

It's bad enough when a company comes up short on the bottom line for several periods in a row, but notice how every passing quarter finds seasoned analysts underestimating RadioShack's reality by larger and larger gaps.

The pros don't get it.

A year ago analysts figured that RadioShack would earn $2.15 a share this year and $2.37 a share come 2012. Now those same firms see the retailer earning $1.19 a share this year and $1.40 a share next year. Anyone that sees that and believes that RadioShack will actually grow its earnings next year needs to revisit the table I laid out a couple of paragraphs earlier.

We're Fresh Out of Growth, But We Just Got a New Shipment of Denial

RadioShack is looking for a new ad agency. It somehow thinks that Madison Avenue can save the day, but even Don Draper couldn't rescue the small-box retailer now. It's not the message, it's the medium.

RadioShack's comps have consistently plunged on this side of Circuit City's liquidation. The shuttering of the consumer electronics giant should have sent even more people scrambling to RadioShack for new laptops or cell phone chargers. It didn't.

The retailer can point to its success in opening mobile centers inside Target (TGT) stores, but if this is a growing business, the cheap-chic discounter will just do what Sam's Club did back in January and tell RadioShack to take a hike.

Despite the financial tsunami, RadioShack decided to use some of the cash on its balance sheet and its dwindling cash flow to double its dividend and announce a large share buyback two months ago. These are smart moves if a company's fundamentals are on the mend, but tricking income investors into a situation where earnings are going the other way is not cool.

It's also not sustainable.

I'm No Ebenezer

I hope I'm wrong. I would love nothing better than to be told a year from now that RadioShack is on track to earn more than $1.40 a share in 2012. I don't have a problem with hearing that consumers have tired of online shopping or buying smartphones directly from the carriers -- or in Apple's (AAPL) case, the manufacturer itself.

However, as someone who was a frequent RadioShack shopper back in its heyday, I'm having a hard time remembering the last time I made a purchase there.

I'm not alone, and the numbers and worrisome trends bear that out.

Longtime Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of RadioShack, Apple, and Best Buy. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple and writing covered calls in Best Buy.




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jj.rolfe

you are actually wrong radioshack is seeing a 45-427% increase in sales revenue in about 66% of its stores as of 2/15/2013, The customer increase and sales increase is due in part to the pay structure and hiring technique of a business that has been around since every economic depression, 1919 when tandy was first founded, they pay the associates based on how well they do on the sales floor with their customers and that creates passion for each and every customer that walks through the door. so when you go to any other business to buy somthing and get your ''dont care service'' there is a bunch of smiling radioshack men and women waiting to help you who have knowledge and experience in electronics customer service and extreme problem solving, ever try to use amazon or any other websites customer service, no because it doesnt exist you get no service, you wait for your product, and you get no refund, in fact they pretty much say thats to bad, and thats why radioshack isnt going out of business its only just begun, give these men and women support they want your business.

February 15 2013 at 10:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
asielec

Radio Shack has been a source for electronic components
and other electrical components to do it yourselfers and
Hobbiest over the years. While you can buy cell phones,
stereos, video cameras, and other appliances at any other
retailer. You can not get repair parts just anywhere, it is
not easy to be sure your getting the part you need online.

December 06 2011 at 11:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to asielec's comment
Mr. Man

Well...not so fast. Their assortment of parts has now been reduced to a few cabinets of really cheaply made over priced parts in the back corner of the store.

December 24 2011 at 3:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sawyercannon

I've never even been in a Radio Shack store. Everything I need I hit Wal-Mart of Best Buy. Radio Shack wasn't even a choice when I need something.

December 06 2011 at 5:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
stalbaum

One of the Radio Shack guys I talked to a couple years ago, at one of the stores that was shuting down, said the reason they were closing the store was because people were just stealing everything in the store!!!

December 05 2011 at 2:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply