RadioShack is gearing up to sell or shutter its stores, report says

A moment of silence middle-aged nerds: RadioShack is reportedly in talks to sell off half its stores to Sprint and then shutter the rest if it can't find a buyer for them. Bloomberg news cited sources close to discussions between the two companies, but officials with the Ft. Worth-based RadioShack declined to comment to Bloomberg. 

RadioShack's stock suffered a 19 percent hit after the news broke. To help get through the holidays, RadioShack received a $120 million lifeline from hedge fund Standard General. Standard General already holds a 10 percent equity stake in RadioShack and is its largest share holder.

RadioShack has roughly 4,300 stores across North America, and if the Bloomberg report is accurate and no other bidder steps in, half of those stores would shutter. Workers at stores have already told reporters they have been directed to ship inventory to other stores and cut prices on the rest.

RadioShack opened its first store in downtown Boston in 1921, and over the decades has dabbled pretty much in all things nerd: ham radios, police scanners, electronics kits, hi-fi, and computers.

Older nerds still have warm memories of RadioShack's Tandy line of computers, which were affectionately called "trash 80s"--an allusion to the model name TRS-80. RadioShack's TRS-80 Model 100 was one of the last products that Bill Gates actually wrote the software for.

Throughout the decades, RadioShack and its sub-brands never shook a reputation for being cheesy and cheap. Micronta, Archer, Realistic and Optimus were the butt of many jokes when Sony, Pioneer, and other more luxurious electronics held sways in the 1970s and 1980s.

During last year's Superbowl, RadioShack went big with a commercial saying the 1980s had called and wanted its store back. The commercial was filled with 1980s icons ripping a RadioShack to pieces. And now that may sadly happen, but without the 1980s icons doing the dismantling. 

The impact on you: Many will simply shrug at the potential passing of RadioShack. But if you were a card-carrying member of the RadioShack Battery Club, or brought vacuum tubes into a local store to have them tested, this is a sad development indeed.


Gordon Mah Ung

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