More than a dozen area RadioShack stores are likely to close, including four in Charlotte, as the long-struggling electronics retailer tries to remake itself in a complex restructuring.
The closures are a blow to employees who have seen the company slip in the face of online competition. They also mean malls and shopping centers now have to fill vacant space, although the stores are relatively small, totaling about 36,000 square feet at the Charlotte-area locations.
The 94-year-old company, whose name comes from the wooden structures that held radio equipment aboard ships in the 1920s, has been known for selling radio parts, computers and other electronics gear over the years. Today, its business is centered on selling mobile phones for providers like Sprint and Verizon – an industry already vulnerable to online retail.
“The future of brick-and-mortar is probably constrained. It’s not zero, but it’s not one of high growth anymore,” said Will Frohnhoefer, a research analyst at BTIG. “RadioShack had very specific problems and difficulties that were exacerbated by online encroachment even more than the average retailer.”
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Fort Worth, Texas-based RadioShack, which filed for bankruptcy protection Thursday, plans to sell between 1,500 to 2,400 underperforming stores to its largest shareholder, New York investment firm Standard General.
Of those stores being sold, Sprint has agreed to operate mobile phone stores within as many as 1,750 of the locations. The rest of RadioShack’s 4,000 U.S. locations are set to be closed and their inventory sold off.
About 85 stores in the Carolinas are on the company’s potential closure list.
The four stores in Charlotte are at Northlake Mall, at Albemarle Crossing, on Wilkinson Boulevard and on South Boulevard. The other potential area closures are in Gastonia, Lincolnton, Concord, Huntersville, Hickory, Statesville and Salisbury, plus Rock Hill and Lancaster in South Carolina.
RadioShack has about 25 stores in the Charlotte area, according to its website.
Lance Sturges, general manager of Eastridge Mall in Gastonia, said the RadioShack store there had been about to extend its lease at the mall. Now it’s on the closure list.
“We had gone through the negotiations and thought the deal was going to get done,” he said. Then, the impending bankruptcy changed those plans. He said the closure will give the mall a chance to lure a fresher, more popular tenant.
“They have been a great tenant through the years,” Sturges said, “but it’s been a while since they generated a lot of traffic.”
An employee at RadioShack’s Wilkinson Boulevard store said Friday that the company has been forthright about answering questions about the closures. All the ones slated to close will shutter within six weeks, the employee said.
The company, which has not turned a profit since 2011, employs about 27,500 people worldwide, according to its last annual report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Staff writer Gavin Off and The Associated Press contributed.