Over the past twenty years, the dawning of the Digital Age has shaken traditional businesses to the core. Consumers' needs are changing and even iconic brands with enduring reputations have re-shaped their business due to disruptions in the market. The companies that refuse to adapt and remain agile are typically the first ones to go belly up.

Yet, even amidst all this disruption, bankruptcy doesn't always equal death.

While it's important for the conditions to be right, it is possible for a brand to rise from the ashes. In fact, there are several brands that are trying to make a comeback--especially in the tech retail space. Will these zombie brands get a second chance at life in 2017?

Circuit City

Once upon a time, the Richmond-based electronics retailer was at the top of their game. From humble beginnings in 1949 to landing a spot on the Fortune 500 list, the Circuit City brand name has held a lot of clout. But like many other companies, Circuit City was a victim of the 2007 Recession.

While the recession was the catalyst for its 2008 bankruptcy, the main reason Circuit City collapsed was its refusal to adapt to a changing consumer mindset. The company denied that newcomer Best Buy was a threat and continued to base their business on an outdated sales model.

How they revived:

It was predicted that Circuit City would be reborn by late 2016. In January of 2016, PCWorld stated that "New owners acquired the brand, domain name, and trademarks in October and are cooking up some big plans for Circuit City's return." As of publication, no physical locations have opened, but that may be good a thing. The brand must be meticulous and strategic in their rebirth. They've been out of the game for almost ten years while Best Buy and Amazon have been playing their hearts out. The competition is fierce.

What they need to do to survive:

Focus on a strong omni-channel strategy. Consumers' needs have continued to evolve since 2008. If this company is going to survive opening brick-and-mortar locations, it needs to seamlessly integrate the physical, mobile, and desktop shopping experience.


This company has always struggled with finding its focus. Over the years they've sold everything from radio parts to personal computers to toys to circuit boards. When it first opened in 1921, RadioShack sold radio components, but by 1963 the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. They were able to ride the CB craze of the 70s into the 80s and then made the shift into the computer revolution. From there, things became even more convoluted as the company tried to turn its many offerings into spinoff stores. The result was declining sales, expansions that quickly closed, and failed strategic shifts. The company declared bankruptcy in February 2015.

How they revived:

A bankruptcy judge approved the sale of RadioShack on March 31, 2015 to Standard General. The sale was intended to preserve stores and jobs, while ensuring the company partnered with Sprint. Since then, RadioShack has been working hard to reinvent itself through a series of clever marketing campaigns, but there is more work to be done.

What they need to do to survive:

Since RadioShack has a reputation for product demos, capitalizing on in-store virtual and augmented reality experiences could help to overhaul their outdated image. And, like Circuit City, they should focus on providing a seamless omni-channel experience.

The Sharper Image

Founded in 1977, The Sharper Image enjoyed popularity throughout the 80s and 90s as they sold high-end gadgets and electronics to consumers. But The Sharper Image also fell victim to the 2007 Recession. Declining consumer spending, an inability to adapt to changing consumer behavior, and backlash over their Ionic Breeze air purifiers drove the company to bankruptcy in 2008.

How they revived:

In 2009, Camelot Venture Group bought the rights to Sharper Image. The following year, the company relaunched The Sharper Image catalog and website. While no physical locations have opened, the brand has continued to grow since 2009. Camelot has increased catalog circulation, and used social media to their advantage. Recently, the owners of FAO Schwarz (the ThreeSixty Group) bought The Sharper Image brand.

What they need to do to survive:

The clever use of social media has helped to reanimate this iconic brand, but it will need to do more to compete. Integrating their social strategy with the customer experience will be key. They should also consider featuring pop-up physical locations to gain exposure for their products and garner media attention.

For these tech retailers, the road to redemption will be a rocky one, but revival isn't unattainable. These iconic brands must put their customer at the center of their business; become hyper aware of consumers' changing needs; and reshape when necessary--all while remaining true to their vision. Only then will they have a chance at second life.