By Cyndi Pyburn

What do Sony Walkmans, VHS players, camcorders, pocket calculators, and boom-boxes conjure up? Well, the 1980s of, course, when RadioShack was the go-to store for all things electronic. Founded nearly 100 years ago in 1921, this American chain also sold radio parts and surplus supplies at retail outlets and through their catalogue. In 1998, RadioShack called itself the single largest seller of consumer telecommunications products in the world, and its stock peaked a year later. RadioShack by then had expanded to Canada, Mexico, Australia, and the UK. Acquired by Circuit City in 2004 and renamed The Source by Circuit City, the chain also introduced a number of house brands. Despite many endeavours to remain innovative and current, they were forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008. In March 2009, telecommunications giant, BCE purchased the Canadian assets and dropped the moniker ‘Circuit City’. 

This long rise and rapid fall is not unusual in the business world. Pioneering companies often have to compete with the second-mover advantage, where other companies, whether #2 or #10 companies, learn through the wins and losses, failures and successes of the #1 company, and are able to avoid and rise above the pain to become the #1 company themselves. (Read more about the phenomenon here.) But how many companies experience the long rise, the quick fall, and still manage to recover and rise to the top again?

The Source is a wonderful example of this. Their journey back to the top of the pack includes numerous important strategies. They still stock a wide array of products from parts and surplus supplies, to tablets, laptops, drones, repair services, and other in-demand top brands of the latest consumer electronics. But, they have crafted a more modern marketing strategy that focuses on ‘I WANT THAT,’ a phrase that is even reflected in the search bar on their website. They pride themselves on offering personalized customer service, and simplifying the complexity of the technology experience. Their advertising works to ensure that consumers know The Source is the place for the unexpectedly awesome – if you can imagine it, chances are they have it.

This newfound brand purpose has not been without tremendous challenge. Though small in size, they are big in reach, and there is much evidence to demonstrate that this chain will be successful in taking on the Goliaths. 2017 could prove to be a transformational pivot year.

Now that everyday consumers are now highly tuned in to Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things, The Source intends to stay ahead of the curve and top of mind for consumers by leaning into the connected life. Their strategies include:

  1. Live the Trend: Showcase technology in all store renovations (half of its 550 stores will be completed this year).
  2. Expand the Product Mix: Include more AI and IoT products, including home monitoring, thermostats, home security, smoke alarms, smart doorbells, and wearable tech.
  3. Train Employees: Elevate product knowledge by training sales associates on the evolving product portfolio to ensure they ‘know their stuff’.
  4. Go Mobile-First: Invest in e-commerce with a mobile-first website design, and enhanced search and navigation.
  5. Create Non-Traditional Outlets: Explore new ways to engage customers from non-traditional retail locations (e.g., airports) to its vending strategy and presence at high-profile music festivals.
  6. Build an Employee Pipeline: Attract and invest in talent with a development program in partnership with Morneau Shepell, Queen’s University and Bell.

The Source is being pro-active by planning  for growth and change. This will ensure it doesn’t fall behind again with a bland product offering, an uninspiring environment, lackluster service, or disengaged customers. The Source is planning to stay. With a clear strategy and detailed tactics to take its legacy to the next level, The Source has found new might in a small footprint.