Sprint services, products to be sold at Radio Shack Partnership signed

phone company to set up kiosks

September 12, 1996|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,SUN STAFF

In an industry driving hard into a deregulated future, Sprint FORMAL and Tandy Corp. yesterday announced a gesture to the regulated past of telecommunications, saying they have forged a 10-year partnership in which Sprint will set up stores inside Tandy's Radio Shack outlets.

Sprint's long-distance service, local phone service, prepaid phone cards, Internet access, phones and cellular-like Personal Communications Services from Sprint Spectrum's joint venture with cable TV firms will be available at the Radio Shack outlets. The plan is designed to bring back the relative simplicity of the days before AT&T Corp. was broken up in 1984.

"One-stop shopping for telephone services returns to America," Tandy chief executive John Roach boasted. "This all will position Sprint and Radio Shack as the telephone store in the consumer's mind."

A glimpse of the plan is already visible at Radio Shacks in the Baltimore-Washington area, the only markets where Sprint Spectrum has opened for full competition in the wireless phone market.

"The model is somewhat in place in the Baltimore-Washington marketplace," Roach said.

By year end, Sprint Spectrum products will be available in 300 RadioShack stores in 15 cities, with the full line of Sprint products and services expected in as many as 4,500 additional stores by the third quarter of 1997. Sprint kiosks will occupy up to 15 percent of a Radio Shack store.

Sprint chief William T. Esrey said the new era of freewheeling competition in telephone services will save consumers money, but at the cost of confusion. He touted the joint venture as a way for consumers to cut through the clutter.

"Today's marketing strategies are no longer going to be sufficient," he said, in a long-distance industry that has relied heavily on direct mail and telemarketing to reach consumers.

The arrangement bolsters each company's strategy to address changes in its industry.

Tandy has adjusted to the rise of large "category-killer" stores that eroded Radio Shack's leadership in stereo and computer sales by finding a series of high-value niches that blend sales and service operations that chains like Circuit City can't fill as nimbly. And Sprint is banking on the consumer's thirst for simplicity in telecommunications, much as it has used its "Dime a Minute" campaign to build up its long-distance business.

But the arrangement will not change everything. Radio Shack will continue to offer cellular phone service from carriers that compete with Sprint Spectrum. Sprint Spectrum spokeswoman Julie Rosenthal said the firm will keep its company-owned stores as well as its relationships with other retail outlets, rather than sell PCS exclusively through Radio Shack. In Baltimore, for example, the Luskin's appliance chain has been heavily promoting PCS service.

Sprint's sales venture is not entirely new, said a spokeswoman for AT&T. That company has multiple relationships with retailers to distribute its products, and it also plans to offer more of its wares through retail channels, spokeswoman Candace Humphrey said.

In addition, AT&T has already experimented with its own chain of one-stop telephone stores, but has closed them down, Humphrey said.

Pub Date: 9/12/96

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