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Coming Back from the Dead

RadioShack Corporation has re-imagined itself as a major seller of smart phones. In an effort to get past its old and dowdy image, it has rebranded itself as “The Shack.” Today, it devotes about half of its relatively small stores’ shelf space to smart phones. It offers phones for most of the major carriers, as well as the Apple iPhone. This re-imaging seems to be helping the company. Its sales and stock price are on the rise.

Competition is getting tougher, however. The leader in electronic superstores, Best Buy, offers smart phones both in its main stores and in its fast-growing small stores, Best Buy Mobile, which sell only phones and phone equipment. Wal-Mart Stores is also a leader in electronics retailing. Wal-Mart is expanding into the fast-growing mobile phone business as well.

Let’s use the Customer Buying Hierarchy to guess at how this market might develop. Without a lot of deep research into the industry, I would guess that Best Buy will emerge as the Function leader. (See “Video #13: Definition of Function” on StrategyStreet.com.) It will offer more phones and more informed advice than will its competitors. The Shack is a Convenience player. They won’t have the Function choices of Best Buy but, with their 6500 locations, they will be a very Convenient buy for many consumers. (See “Video #15: Definition of Convenience” on StrategyStreet.com.) Wal-Mart’s strength will be both Convenience and Price. It offers Convenience in the sense that it offers smart phones, along with many other items that customers will buy much more frequently than they buy a smart phone. Primarily, Wal-Mart will offer low prices. (See “Video #10: Industry Consolidation and Recycling of Capacity” on StrategyStreet.com.) It is unlikely that anyone will compete seriously with them on pricing.

The smart phone market is a fast-growing market. Most of these markets see market shares shift due to Function and Price innovations. These are areas of real strength for Best Buy and Wal-Mart. Convenience will usually be a less important benefit in the movement of market share in these kinds of markets.

Posted 5/27/10

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