#apple stores

The Plan To Save RadioShack

A few days after the launch of the latest iPhone and we still have lines out the doors of Apple Stores around the world. I was in this one on Friday. It truly was insane.

This stands in stark contrast to the recent news about RadioShack. Impending bankruptcy will probably drag this out for years, but the writing on the wall seems clear: the once-dominant consumer electronics retailer is going to die.

And that’s too bad. I, like so many people of my generation, have fond memories of the chain from my youth. It was the place to go and discover that anything and everything was possible with electronics. It was, in a way, the Apple Store of its day.

Okay, that’s probably a stretch. But if consumer electronics had been as mainstream in the 1980s as they are today, there’s no reason to think RadioShack couldn’t have been the place to be for everyone, beyond just the geeks.

Instead, RadioShack morphed into what was essentially a cell phone outpost pitted against the long-term interest of the carriers. Hence, the situation they’re now in.

No one is asking, but my plan to revive RadioShack would be to harken back to the old days with a twist of the way things currently are. I’d create an “Apple Store for everything.”

Yeah, yeah with Apple now the crown jewel of retail, everyone is trying to do this. But RadioShack has two distinct advantages. 1) This love of gadgetry is in their DNA. 2) They already have the retail presence.

And actually, number 2 has been a huge point of weakness for RadioShack. They’ve tried to close a large amount of current stores, but their investors won’t let them. So it may be time to turn the perceived weakness into a strength.

Yes, Best Buy and others have been trying to do this to some extent as well. But those stores are way too cluttered and intimidating. Radio Shack stores seem to be just the right size. The key would be to curate only the best-of-the-best Android devices, Google devices, Microsoft devices, Sony devices, etc. Not everything, just the best.

Then lay those items out around the store to let people try them out and compare. And have experts around to help. Experts not paid on commission. Experts who aren’t fucking clueless (go into a RadioShack store now, most employees are clueless about current technology). Actual experts in the various gadgets and ecosystems.

Yes, Radio Shack seems to be doing some of this with their new store strategy. But I’ve seen one of those new stores – they don’t go far enough. They’re just trying to be actual Apple Stores (including the emphasis on Beats). They should be more like Bizzaro Apple Stores.

Again, don’t offer everything, just the best things. Partner with The Wirecutter or someone who excels in this type of curation. Be the place people trust to sort through the gadget clutter.

And maybe mix in some new, exciting tech. Things like Oculus, 3D printers, etc. Things that excite the public’s interest and things they want to see in person.

If you can establish yourself in this way, I think the lines out the door on launch days (of select products) may follow.

Remember, when the first Apple Stores launched, they were ridiculed as a failure waiting to happen. Apple did a lot of smart things to get to where they are now, but the focus on quality products is what ultimately made the strategy work. We may not be able to rely on other consumer electronic giants to do the same on their own, and that’s where RadioShack could step in. To curate. The Apple Store for everything else.

(Written on my iPhone)

The writing is very clearly on the wall here: Radio Shack seems screwed. And that’s too bad, because it was once such a great retail chain.

No one is asking, but my plan would be to create an “Apple Store for everything and everyone.” That is, use their current weakness, their insanely large store footprint, as an advantage. Create an Apple Store-like experience for more than just Apple products, all over.

Apple can’t do this for obvious reasons (they’re not going to sell Android devices). Neither can Microsoft (they’re not going to sell iPhones). Neither can the carriers (well they potentially could but they’re far too greedy). And Best Buy is just a bloated mess at this point.

It sounds like RadioShack is starting to do some of this. But I’ve seen the new stores. They’re not going far enough.

Samit Sarkar:

Sony is planning to close 20 of the 31 extant Sony Store locations in the U.S. by the end of the year, the company announced today.

Wait, there are still Sony Stores? 31 of them?!

But seriously, how crazy is it that in an age where Apple Stores are thriving more than any other consumer retail stores — period — Sony, which was the frontrunner in this regard, has totally failed.

It just shows once again that the only thing that matters is the product. Sony used to make great products, and the stores thrived. Lately, it has largely been stuff no one wants and well…

Matthew Yglesias recently visited a local mall in Arlington, Virginia. There, he found a jam-packed Apple Store and an empty Microsoft Store. His conclusion:

Of course Microsoft operated for many years as a fantastic company without any retail stores at all, so it’s not as if the failure to build successful stores is the problem per se. The real issue is that there’s nothing wrong with the store. It’s a great place to shop. Much better than the Apple Store, really, because the Apple Store is crowded, and it’s a little hard to get an employee’s attention. At the Microsoft Store you get a very pleasant physical environment and a helpful staff. It’s just that nobody wants to buy their stuff.

It’s still a very profitable company thanks to its enormous strengths in the enterprise market. But enterprises are made of people. If nobody wants to buy Microsoft’s stuff, that will trickle up into the enterprise.

I’m sure the diehards are already attacking Yglesias and explaining the fallacy of his logic here. I’m sure those people think they’re right. The only problem: they’re not, Yglesias is. Time will prove it.

[via John Gruber]

Ian Sherr and Joann S. Lublin:

To be sure, Apple Store sales continue to be the envy of other retailers. It raked in $5,971 per square foot in 2012, up 17% from the $5,098 per square foot the year before, according to retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners. By comparison, Tiffany & Co. had sales of $3,453 per square foot in 2012, and popular yoga-clothes retailer Lululemon Athletica Inc. pulled in $2,464 per square foot last year.

An entire article about how Apple Stores are losing their luster — complete with a paragraph that undercuts the entire argument one-third of the way through. Even in a typically weak quarter for the stores, Apple was far ahead of Tiffany’s. Tiffany’s!

But the insane growth is stalling. I guess Apple should start selling barrels of crude oil in their stores. That’s about the only way to combat the law of large numbers at this point in order to win back the tech press. And clearly, diamonds won’t be enough.

Emil Protalinski:

Microsoft today announced a strategic partnership with Best Buy and Future Shop. The company plans to build Windows Stores in 500 Best Buy locations across the US and more than 100 Best Buy and Future Shop locations in Canada, launching from late June through September.

Seriously, what year is this? I don’t think it’s 2006, when Apple kicked off its Best Buy partnership because the retailer was kicking ass. I thought it was 2013 and Best Buy is decaying.

Microsoft probably should have done a deal to get into Apple Stores. That’s where the customers are.

WSJ:

India still erects hurdles. Apple hasn’t been able to open its trademark stores because of requirements that foreign retailers purchase 30% of the value of India sales from domestic suppliers—unmanageable in a country with virtually no electronics manufacturing.

Had no idea this was a rule. Hard to see a way in which Apple can overcome this.

Jordan Crook reports that Sony COO Phil Molyneux unveiled Sony’s new retail strategy at a press conference this morning. Wait for it… Sony Stores! As Crook notes, the strategy is basically “follow Apple’s lead”.

But I’m confused, wasn’t this also their old retail strategy? It sure sounds like they’re basically doing the same things they were doing with the Sony Style stores but holding a press conference to say the strategy is new because it didn’t work the first time around.

The real problem — which I’m not sure either Sony or Microsoft really understand — is that simply building stores which look like Apple Stores isn’t enough. It’s the Apple products in them that make them successful.

Apple’s strategy with the stores worked because they knew they had the best products, they just had a hard time conveying that with the existing retail channels. The products quite literally sell themselves, they just needed the most efficient and effective way to get them in peoples’ hands.

At the same time, they realized there was a huge opportunity for competent human beings (who don’t work on commission) to usher users into this brave new world of computing everywhere.

It was the perfect one-two punch. That’s the Apple Store. 

But if you open a Apple-like store and your products just aren’t very good, guess what happens? The opposite of success. 

Think of it this way: if you opened the nicest looking store in the world that sold bags of shit, would it be successful?

Focus on the products first, not the stores.