RadioShack's Super Bowl Comeback

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Amid Monday's market selloff was one little -- in terms of market cap -- but well-known struggling retailer, RadioShack (RSH), which finished the day up more than 3%.

Usually, when markets sell off so broadly, the lower quality and smaller companies suffer the most damage, but not yesterday for RadioShack.

The company's fall from grace is well documented; its countdown to extinction is a couple years old by now. So, why was the company in positive territory yesterday, a day that had some in fear that the sky is falling? Three words, Super Bowl commercial.

In one of the better ads this year, and in self-deprecating fashion, the company acknowledged what we already know -- that its stores are outdated and in need of a major update.

The ad featured several 1980s-era celebrities, such as John Ratzenberger as Cliff Clavin from Cheers, Hulk Hogan, Mary Lou Retton, Dee Snyder from Twisted Sister, Erik Estrada from CHiPs, along with characters such as Alf and Chuckie from the Child's Play movies, arriving at a store and representing the 1980s to take their store back.

The gang arrives, empties the entire contents of the store and carries some of it away on top of a DeLorean. The ad ends with a voice saying "It's time for a new RadioShack," and we are then given a glimpse of what a newer version of the stores will look like.

It was a brilliant ad, viewed by millions. Whether it will get customers back into the stores remains to be seen, but it may have created at least some level of curiosity. That's what RadioShack needs at this point. It needs to shake its image as the store few want to visit.

While I don't believe the company is on its last leg at this point, it doesn't have the benefit of several years to accomplish a turnaround. The company needs to show some progress soon. From a marketing standpoint, the Super Bowl ad, as expensive as it was, appears to have been money well spent. Time will tell.


This isn't the first time that the admission, via television commercial, that a company's products were not up to snuff. Late in 2009, Domino's Pizza (DPZ) unveiled a great ad campaign admitting that customers believed that its pizza was mass produced, tasteless, and like cardboard. The company used the ads to unveil its new pizza recipe, which was a huge success with consumers. Results improved, and the stock is up nine-fold since late 2009.

DPZ Chart
DPZ
data by YCharts

This also isn't the first time that a Super Bowl ad marked the beginning of a company's turnaround. During the 2009 Super Bowl, restaurant chain Denny's  (DENN), which had been struggling for years, announced that it was giving away 2 million free breakfasts on the following Tuesday.

It was a great, albeit expensive, way to reintroduce the brand to consumers, and it was the impetus for me to take another look at the company, one that I'd long forgotten.

What I discovered was a company that was getting back on its feet, paying down debt and moving away from company-owned restaurants toward re-franchising. The company has done a good job over the past five years, and shareholders have been rewarded.

DENN ChartDENN data by YCharts

We'll see if RadioShack can rebound as nicely as Denny's has; it will be a tall order, but from a marketing perspective, Sunday's Super Bowl commercial was a winner.

At the time of publication, Heller was long RadioShack.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

Jonathan Heller, CFA,CFP® is president of KEJ Financial Advisors, his fee-only financial planning company. Jon spent 17 years at Bloomberg Financial Markets in various roles, from 1989 until 2005. He ran Bloomberg's Equity Fundamental Research Department from 1994 until 1998, when he assumed responsibility for Bloomberg's Equity Data Research Department. In 2001, he joined Bloomberg's Publishing group as senior markets editor and writer for Bloomberg Personal Finance Magazine, and an associate editor and contributor for Bloomberg Markets Magazine. In 2005, he joined SEI Investments as director of investment communications within SEI's Investment Management Unit.

  Jon is also the founder of the Cheap Stocks Web site, a site dedicated to deep-value investing. He has an undergraduate degree from Grove City College and an MBA from Rider University, where he has also served on the adjunct faculty; he is also a CFA charter holder.

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