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Floundering Retailer Mum
AP Technology Writer



Radio silence from RadioShack Corp. is frustrating Wall Street, which wants answers from a company that has seen executive shake-ups, poor sales and a public relations nightmare involving the firing of employees via e-mail over the past year.

"You've got questions, we've got answers," has been a guiding statement for the electronics retailer since the 1990s, when stores were known for a diverse array of electronics products, from stereo systems, cameras and CB radios to hard-to-find batteries, connectors and plugs.

But some analysts and observers said the lack of answers about the company's turnaround plans since the arrival of new CEO Julian Day has been an ongoing source of frustration and concern. Others believe the silence signals a company too busy fixing things to talk to reporters or investors.

The executives assembled by Day have refused all media interviews. They've also stopped holding conference calls with analysts during quarterly earnings reports, a common practice among publicly traded companies. They won't be talking to investors or analysts when RadioShack posts third quarter earnings Wednesday.

"I don't know how you get away with running a public company like a private company. I don't see where he's done anything but get rid of people," said William Baldwin, a Dallas-based analyst for Baldwin Anthony Securities. "I'm just kind of sitting here befuddled as to why the stock is going up. I don't understand it."

Shares hit a five-year-low of $14 per share in late June but have steadily climbed since Day, a former Kmart executive and retail turnaround veteran, took the reins in July.

The company - named after a nautical term used by radio operating sailors in the early 20th century - continues to have problems in multiple areas, analysts said.

The issues include too many stores stocked with poorly selling merchandise, stiff competition from large retailers such as Best Buy Co. and Circuit City Stores Inc., and a cellular phone business that hasn't met expectations.

In February, CEO Dave Edmondson resigned after questions were raised about the accuracy of his resume. In August, the company laid off 400 workers via e-mail. At the same time, RadioShack earnings have tumbled because of lackluster store sales.

In the most recent second quarter, RadioShack lost $3.2 million, or 2 cents per share, for the three months ending in June, on revenue of $1.1 billion. That compared to a profit of $52.3 million, or 33 cents per share, on revenue of $1.09 billion for the same period a year ago.

During the same three month period, same-store sales, or sales in stores open at least a year, dipped 3 percent.

Analysts seem divided on the company's future, with some openly wondering if the RadioShack chain even needs to exist. Others, meanwhile, still think the company's vast network of 6,000 stores and 800 kiosks are an asset that can be tuned for profitability.

Regardless, RadioShack's perception as a convenient neighborhood pit stop for tech savvy consumers and curious shoppers has diminished over the years, said Donald Trott, analyst with Jefferies & Co. The firm recently downgraded the company's stock from "hold" to "underperform."

"While RadioShack still represents the most convenient location for some consumers seeking these items, that customer base is eroding. Moreover, the chain's customer base is aging," Trott said. "Younger people do not readily relate to RadioShack, and most think of it as an 'old man's' store."

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