RadioShack once had thousands of franchisees, or dealer stores. Most of them have now closed, and there are fewer than 1,000 left. The key feature that has helped them survive is that most of the dealer locations were already successful retailers selling other things before Radio Shack recruited them to join the network. The Dallas Morning news recounts that decades ago, the Shack took small local merchants out for fancy dinners and tropical cruises trying to convince them to join the dealer network. The model was successful for everyone, bringing electronics to towns too small to support a corporate-owned RadioShack store.
Most of the original retailers brought in 20 to 30 years ago are now retiring or leaving the business for the same reasons that any brick-and-mortar businesses, even in small towns, are closing down. Yet some of the stores remain open and successful. CNN visited a few dealer locations that are thriving, which continue to succeed mostly on the strength of their customer service, their relationships with customers, and the fact that they’re the only place for miles around where you can buy a mobile phone at all.
One business owner who owns two Radio Shack dealer stores in New England told CNN that he would be fine even if the Radio Shack brand ceased to exist. Another store in Wisconsin is similar to what RadioShacks will become in the future: it’s a co-branded store that is also a storefront for Cellcom, a regional mobile provider. The announced post-bankruptcy plans for RadioShack are that about half of its stores will remain open, and they will be co-branded RadioShack/Sprint retail locations.