Radio Shack has been trying to close more than 1,000 of its 5,000 stores for the past year; its lenders are resisting; bankruptcy threatens.
Meantime other retailers are weighing whether Radio Shack sites -- 29 in Philadelphia and its nearby suburbs, a total of 130 from Wilmington to Princeton, each about 2,000-2,700 sq ft -- would make good lunch spots, phone stores, massage salons.
"We have a lease" to take over a Philadelphia-area Radio Shack -- he won't say which, it's still open -- and are negotiating for others in Boston, Atlanta, Miami, and Austin, Tex., Todd Leff, CEO of Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spas, a 200-store franchise chain based in Hamilton Township, N.J., told me. Hand and Stone says it has 35 locations in the Philadelphia area and South Jersey, and plans up to 15 more. Each store employs about 30.
"We're looking at adding as many (RadioShack sites) as our partners at Verizon will let us," says Dave Staszewski, EVP for Connecticut-based Wireless Zone, which sells mobile phones from about 400 stores nationally, including around 20 the Philadelpha area. "Some of those RadioShacks are absolutely good spots for us," he told me. Some shopping centers don't allow more than one phone retailer; Wireless Zone hopes to replace RadioShacks where they close. "The landlords are telling Radio Shacks to get out of some of those locations. We're a good fit." Each store employs around five people, which Staszewski says is similar to Radio Shack.
And Canada-based Pita Pit is looking to re-enter the Philadelphia area, three years after an upstate franchisee (the chain has franchise groups based Harrisburg and Wyomissing) closed Pita Pit's lone local outlet off Rittenhouse Square at 16th and Sansom, Bill Wilfong, vice president for franchise operation at the chain's U.S. headquarters in Idaho, told me.
The chain will need a new, city-focused ranchisee if it is to fill stores the size of Radio Shack in higher-rent markets like Center City, however. "Philadelphia is a great market. But rents went super high: When they get around $9,000, $10,000 a month, we get shy. You have to sell a lot of $9 pitas to pay the rent," Wilfong said. Pita Pit has 540 stores, 235 of them in the U.S.
Both Hand and Stone's Leff and Pita Pit's Wilfong say they are looking for locations in shopping centers anchored by grocery stores or high-traffic women's clothing stores like Ross, Marshall's or Target. They aren't looking for Radio Shack sites in malls or small-store strip centers. "Malls have been a dying thing for us," Wilfong told me.