Radio Shack Plans To Put It All Online

Tandy Corp.’s Radio Shack could become the first major national electronics retail chain to put its wares online, when it launches an e-commerce business this fall. The largest consumer electronics retailer in the U.S. has formed a new division called radioshack.com, which will focus on selling TVs, stereos, computers, and other electronic equipment on a Web site of the same name.

Radio Shack’s current Web site features a guide to local Radio Shack stores across the country and information on product repairs, but it does no selling. Later this year, the site will get a makeover to showcase more than 30,000 electronics products available for sale. The site will offer 10 times as many products as Radio Shack’s brick-and-mortar stores.

Plenty of Up-Sides

In addition to variety, Radio Shack’s online store will have two other significant factors in its favor: its well-known brand name, and a head-start on its largest consumer electronics competitors. For example, Advertising Age magazine has ranked Radio Shack among the top 200 brands in the U.S. in recent years, and its more than 7,000 stores provide extensive visibility for the chain.

While several online-only retailers offer electronic equipment, Circuit City and Best Buy, the two largest electronics chains in the U.S. after Radio Shack, have not yet put large product lines on their Web sites. Circuit City does no online selling, and Best Buy sells only CDs, tapes, and digital versatile discs.

Circuit City spokesman Morgan Stewart told the E-Commerce Times today that the company still plans to get into e-commerce this year, as it announced earlier. However, he would not elaborate on when the chain will go online or what products will be offered.

Best Buy is also getting more serious about its online opportunities, spokeswoman Joy Harris told the E-Commerce Times. John Walden, former head of Internet grocer Peapod Inc., joined Best Buy’s staff this week as president of its e-commerce division with plans to beef up the company’s offerings. “We do have a plan [to expand online sales],” Harris said. “We just don’t have a timeline [ready] to be made public yet.”

Timing Is Critical

It looks like the time is right for Radio Shack to get more aggressive in online sales. “Radioshack.com will be one of the biggest, most differentiated e-commerce sites online with more products, services and resources than any other site in the consumer electronics industry,” according to Tandy president Len Roberts.

Going online makes offering specialty and hard-to-find items more economical, because those items can be stocked in one warehouse, rather than on thousands of retail shelves. The site will also feature technical books for hobbyists and engineers, along with a section of products specifically targeting businesses, schools and government agencies.

To help promote the new online store, Radio Shack retailers will be equipped later this year with digital subscriber line (DSL) connections in their stores to provide sales reps and customers with fast access to the Internet.

Tandy Corporation (NYSE: TAN), Radio Shack’s parent company, is based in Fort Worth, Texas.

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