All of RadioShack’s stores have been either shut down or sold and have now re-opened to sell only Sprint phones alongside batteries. Yet the owner of those stores, Standard General, didn’t negotiate to buy the RadioShack brand name along with the stores. It will be auctioned in May along with the rest of the company’s intellectual property, which includes the Radioshack.com URL and their mailing lists. Standard General may bid on the brand name, but they obviously don’t think that it’s very important.
If the brand stayed dormant for a few decades until radios were a faint memory and it becomes difficult to remember the time before everyone walked around wearing face and wrist computers, it might become valuable. Right now, it’s not worth much at all. Over at AdAge, Kevin Singer points out that maybe owning the name doesn’t really matter in the long run: a slimmed-down RadioShack business model could focus on selling earbuds, chargers, and batteries for the electronics that we already own instead of pushing new and pricey gadgets. Some electronics purchases aren’t very glamorous, but are very time-sensitive.
Right now, brands with authenticity and history are trendy. Yes, that’s a bit of a paradox. For a really strange example, look at the clothing brand Madewell. A few generations ago, the company was a New England-based maker of workwear like overalls and lined denim jackets. Now it’s a brand of women’s clothing that’s a high-end sibling of J. Crew. The company didn’t spend $20 million on the company’s brand name, of course: a fashion designer paid $125,000 for the trademark back in 2003. The following year, he transferred it to Mickey Drexler, who is now the CEO of J. Crew. Originally, the idea was to revive the Madewell workwear aesthetic, but that plan didn’t work out. Instead of the planned reinterpretation of classic workwear, the company now sells pre-ripped jeans for more than $300. This would probably annoy the Russian immigrant who started the original Madewell during the Great Depression. The brand name and “heritage” of Madewell remains valuable, though, giving the brand a faux authenticity that has nothing whatsoever to do with the original Madewell brand.
Of course, just because a brand is available for cheap, that doesn’t mean it has any value. The name of Circuit City, a big-box electronics chain, sort of lived on in the form of an e-commerce site, but even they gave up, because no one has all that much affection for Circuit City.
RadioShack is different, but the RadioShack that people remember fondly no longer existed by the time the chain declared bankruptcy. People remember the store of the ’70s and ’80s that sold their first computer and maybe a few remote control cars. We can buy consumer electronics just about everywhere now, as long as there’s a mobile data signal.
by Laura Northrup via Consumerist