Need an iPhone 4S? Try This Forgotten Retailer!

Sometimes it hurts to be the only game in town.

Just ask RadioShack (NYSE: RSH  ) . The strip-mall electronics retailer sells the new Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPhone 4S. However, it only carries the AT&T (NYSE: T  ) version, not like bigger gadget retailer Best Buy (NYSE: BBY  ) , which also stocks Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S  ) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) models.

Still, it's a start. This phone is set to enter the Guinness Book of Records as the fastest-selling electronic trinket of all time, displacing Apple's own iPad 2 from the top spot. Four million units shifted hands over the first weekend, which is twice the sell-through of the now-antediluvian iPhone 4. Any retailer worth its salt would kill for a piece of this action.

Best Buy locations are generally sold out. I'm pretty sure that all three of the networks are having a hard time keeping iPhone 4S units in stock. Go to Apple's own online store and you'll have to wait 1-2 weeks for delivery -- regardless of carrier.

Sadly, it doesn't look like consumers are connecting the RadioShack brand with the iPhone. RadioShack was sitting on a mountain of iPhones over the weekend, according to a company spokesman emailing Boy Genius Report. "iPhone 4s enthusiasts who are still looking to get their device late this afternoon or over the weekend will find them at their nearby RadioShack," spake the Shack. The 4S was "available in 3,000 stores nationwide" and the ship-to-store option is still widely available.

So we have the hottest electronics item in recorded history, available in large quantities while other retailers run dry -- and RadioShack has to beg for your attention.

Ouch.

RadioShack clearly doesn't cast a large shadow in the retail world today, try as it might. The Fool has real-world money in the company in two ways, via the Motley Fool Hidden Gems newsletter service and a Rising Stars buy. But even those seemingly bullish moves rest almost purely on rock-bottom share prices. As Anand Chokkavelu said when he bought some Shack back in February, "[H]onestly, I'm not really that stoked about the prospects of Radio Shack or Best Buy in the long term." Low-cost specialists Wal-Mart and Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) steal RadioShack's business on one end; the wireless networks themselves compete at the other end. And RadioShack gets lost in the crossfire.

RadioShack has been on death watch for years. Unlike Anand and my Hidden Gems colleagues, I don't think the stock is undervalued at all. This Apple debacle is simply one more data point to prove the Shack's growing irrelevance.

Will RadioShack bounce back, or is it a dinosaur on life support? Either way, our watchlist service will help you follow this story to its cheery or bitter conclusion. Just click here to add RadioShack to your own watchlist, and you're good to go.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. The Motley Fool owns shares of RadioShack, Apple, Wal-Mart Stores, and Best Buy. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Wal-Mart Stores, Amazon.com, and AT&T, as well as creating a diagonal call position in Wal-Mart Stores and bull call spread position in 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. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio, follow him on Twitter or Google+, or peruse our Foolish disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (8) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 18, 2011, at 9:25 PM, bobc87 wrote:

    Maybe the problem isn't RadioShack. Maybe it's the fact that they are only carrying the at&t version while their chief competitor carries the iPhone from all their US carriers.

  • Report this Comment On October 18, 2011, at 11:35 PM, conradsands wrote:

    Consumers are finally noticing that AT&T and Verizon = The Most Expensive Wireless Plans in America. We know where Verizon and AT&T (both in the top 5 for corporate lobbying) get all that money to run commercials 24x7, pay out huge “fat cat” executive bonuses and hire armies of lawyers and lobbyists to push the U.S. market into a wireless industry duopoly -- the American consumer.

    In a poll that asked 4,040 smartphone users how many dropped calls they had experienced in a three-month period, AT&T — carrier of Apple's iPhone and iPad mobile devices — came in dead last among the country's four largest carriers.

    Sprint is the only U.S. carrier to offer new and existing customers the iPhone experience with unlimited data plans starting at $79.99 per month. Sprint Nextel has been recognized as a J.D. Power 2011 Customer Service Champion — one of only 40 companies to have earned this distinction this year. To qualify for inclusion on this elite list, the companies must not only excel within their own industry, but also stand out among leading brands in 12 major industries evaluated by J.D. Power and Associates.

  • Report this Comment On October 19, 2011, at 2:33 AM, minidvpro wrote:

    To conradsands... The Sprint employee. Sprint has been the worst provider for the network coverage. As a Sprint user, I wish I could destroy my phone. They have unlimited coverage on a useless network that cannot be accessed... Impressive.

  • Report this Comment On October 19, 2011, at 9:59 AM, DanLall wrote:

    Radioshack sells all sprint and verizon and at&t iphones. I work there. I would know

  • Report this Comment On October 19, 2011, at 11:39 AM, CivicDuty wrote:

    Hey Anders.... did you actually spend ANY time researching this, or did you just make it up as you went along? Why don't you go into your local RadioShack and actually SEE all the plans available for the iPhones from the different providers.... THEN come back and write a follow-up piece. This is the danger of spouting "knowledge" into the investment community without actual information.....

  • Report this Comment On October 20, 2011, at 5:43 AM, TMFZahrim wrote:

    @Civic, @Dan, I'm sorry for not taking the half-an-hour drive to the nearest Shack (and the same back again) for this piece. For some reason, I assumed that you should be able to order your phone online too, or at least see that it exists so you can go get it locally. But RS only lists the AT&T models:

    http://goo.gl/MvVXn

    ...and even then it's "See store for price." So I was tricked. Apologies all around.

    Anders

  • Report this Comment On October 20, 2011, at 3:24 PM, Shaun0479 wrote:

    Thanks so much for the advice Anders! I called a RS today and found one nearby! So helpful!

  • Report this Comment On October 24, 2011, at 4:44 PM, QWQWQW5 wrote:

    Anders, can you update the article to correct it to say that they sell Verizon Wireless iPhones?

    Also the link you post to above lists VZW, as does Radioshack's main page when you click Learn More.

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