RadioShack's Hail Mary Pass

The retailer's new concept stores are working, but are they enough to save the company?

Aug 14, 2014 at 3:30PM

The news for RadioShack (NYSE:RSHCQ) just keeps getting worse. Amid threats of being delisted from the New York Stock Exchange due to its share price falling below $1, numerous analysts have declared the electronics retailer a dead man walking. On Tuesday, the stock dropped over 10% as UBS said the company's turnaround is "highly in doubt" and Moody's said it was on track to run out of cash by October of next year. Earlier this year, creditors blocked RadioShack's plan to close 1,100 stores, and the company has just $61 million in cash on the balance sheet, with losses piling up each quarter. Suppliers and creditors are getting nervous. 

Nonetheless, CEO Joseph Magnacca is forging ahead with his plan to revamp the company, changing the model into "concept" stores, 38 of which had been open before the end of the first quarter. In the last two weeks the company has announced the opening of 44 concept stores, also known as interactive remodel stores, in the San Francisco and Washington, D.C. areas. Among other features, the new stores include a mobile device repair program called "Fix It Here!" designed to provided same-day fixes for smartphones and tablets. The company also plans to sell innovative products from start-ups and inventors through a partnership with PCH International, and installed a speaker wall, where shoppers can test out a variety of sound systems, which has helped boost sales. 


The concept stores are having early success. Addressing an otherwise disastrous first quarter, Magnacca said in a June press release, "Our concept stores continue to drive strong sales growth, and we have begun to execute our 100-store remodel program to scale the successful components of our concept stores across our network." Sales have grown in the double digits at the new stores,  but RadioShack had only opened 38 of them through the close of the first quarter, the first of which opened in July 2013 in New York. By the end of the year, the company expects to have 100 remodeled stores. 

The remodeled stores might not be enough to save the company on their own, but they could give RadioShack a lifeline in the form of a loan to keep it afloat while it converts more stores. 

Is this the end or a new beginning?
Recent employee reviews on also seem to reflect the dire situation in which the company finds itself. RadioShack has a rating of just 2.4 stars (out of a possible five) on the employer review site, and many employees complain that the company is losing talent and imposing unrealistic sales goals. Reviewers also seem aware that the company is that a potential bankruptcy is looming, creating a more negative work environment. 

Despite heavy losses on the income statement, free cash flow was nearly flat last year, at just negative $6.5 million. In the first quarter of this year, however, negative free cash flow hit $50.7 million as same-store sales dropped 14% due to poor traffic and soft mobile phone sales.

In addition to the $61 million on the balance sheet, RadioShack has a credit line of $362 million to tap, but the company will need to improve on its first-quarter results. Cash management and the success of its concept stores should be key in determining RadioShack's chances of survival. If the chain can demonstrate growth in the remodeled stores, it might convince creditors that a reborn company can survive. The market isn't betting on a recovery, as the price for credit-default swaps, which offer security for nonpayment of bonds, jumped 70% last month, and bonds that mature in 2019 are selling for just $0.42 on the dollar.

The good news for RadioShack bulls is that any sign of life should send the stock jumping. If management can show in its earnings report next month that same-store sales are coming back, that the concept store growth is strengthening, or that the financial losses are under control, the stock could begin to come back from the dead.

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Jeremy Bowman owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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