Radio Shack will now stock cellphones, cellphone accessories, Arduinos

A few months ago, we covered Radio Shack’s efforts to suck less, and the Radio Shack DIY team has now come back with the top ten suggestions submitted. Of course Arduinos make the list at number 1, which we somewhat expected for beginner projects.  Here’s the entire list in order:

  1. Arduino
  2. More kits and project suggestions
  3. More introduction/instructional books
  4. Larger LED selection
  5. Larger resistor selection
  6. TONS more capacitors
  7. DIY audio and speaker equipment
  8. HAM radio gear
  9. More competitive pricing
  10. Stronger sales force

For all the jest of the headline, we know we’re coming down too hard on Radio Shack. We tried pricing out individual components on Digikey matching what was in a 150 in 1 electronics kit, and learned the profit margin on these kits are razor-thin. That being said, we long for the days when our local, independent Radio Shack – staffed entirely by really weird and awesome people – was still in business. They couldn’t turn a profit because of the 3 corporate Radio Shacks less than 10 miles away.

Tell us what Radio Shack got wrong in the comments section. We’ll put “There aren’t any individual AVR and PIC microcontrollers” down as our complaint.

123 thoughts on “Radio Shack will now stock cellphones, cellphone accessories, Arduinos

  1. I agree with Adam Outler here. Bring back Armatron. Update it, pack in an Arduino and make it a build it yourself kit. I’ve still got a early 80’s Armatron that still works. My 5 year old son now plays with it, using it to pick up all sorts of stuff.

  2. know what would be great? if everyone who voted for arduinos (internet people) actually bought one from a radio shack store.

    then 2 months from now, radio shack declared stocking arduino a disaster anyway because it was no way near the volume a b&m store expects.

    it’s like radio shack went to a retard school to ask this question and everyone voted for wheelchairs and retard socks.

    i just hope it back fires horribly and this whole [del]basic stamp[/del] [del]rabbit[/del] arduino thing goes away.

  3. Honestly, if I could get what I want at the store down the street, I’d just go get it. Sure, if it is $30 at RS and $3 online, I’ll get it online, but a $2 difference is going to be eaten by shipping anyway.

    When I’m doing a project, it would be very comforting to know I can just go get a part if I need it, as opposed to ordering one and waiting for it to arrive.

    Now…if only I could find a place locally that stocks Happ controls! :p

  4. Looking back at my younger years, I loved looking through the aisles as a middle-school kid – all those parts and bits that I can put together and make something.. wow! I was able to learn something, get the parts, and build it. Personally, THAT’S the sort of thing that I fondly recall from RS (that and the “Engineer’s Mini-Notebooks”). But for today’s aspiring hobbyist – there are sites like MakerSHED to fill a similar gap.

    I wonder if they considered trying to get local clubs formed to spark interest. Yes, yes, it’s time-consuming and takes a bit of work. However, they have to face it: if you’re trying to get a local consumer base to buy your products from local stores, you must invest in those people and build your customer base. There are opportunities to make the hobbyist market work – but how serious are they willing to try?

  5. What happens if radio shack makes arduino a new lego?

    I see them carrying a lot more components to support arduino in the future; but only if the demand is there. The RS near me was just redesigned, and about 1/2 of the store is dedicated to hobbyists, now.

    Not shopping there anymore will not help as much as requesting parts they don’t have in stock. I work retail and if I get three customers in a month ask for something we don’t carry in store, I’m sending a ticket to corporate to let them know.

    And keep in mind that you are allowed to tell associates “no thanks, I’m just browsing.” There are at most three associates at any given time in RS, so you will only have to take about 10 seconds total to be polite. I know it must feel unbearable to be that nice, but I think you will find it is not lethal.

    And if they ask more than once, you could keep in mind that many customers actually think while they shop and may develop questions; the associate is likely only making sure you don’t have any. It is still okay to be polite and not snap at them.

  6. Mr.Non-Descript has a good idea…

    Imagine if Boyscouts had merit badges for Arduino or C programming or something…a whole lot more useful towards a high paying career than making knots, reading the book of Mormon, or attacking homosexuals.

    Better yet, imagine if there was a youth organization targeted specifically towards geeks and nerds…it could even be open to people of all genders, races, and creeds…wouldn’t that be something?!

  7. I loved Rad Shmack as a kid, and worked for them for 5 years, ending about a year ago.

    Radio Shack would have a MUCH stronger sales force if every year they didn’t roll out another “exciting new pay plan” that doesn’t involve selling more stuff to make less money.

    Oh wait, “just sell more phones”, right? LOL

    It gets better. let me tell you the one about “unending sales gains”, it’s a HOOT!

  8. A few years ago there used to be a Radio Shack (conveniently next to an ACE hardware) in the small shopping center I lived nearby. It was really convenient because I could just take a short bike ride and get what I need. Sadly, it closed, and the second closet one was 5 miles away…(the same fate for the ACE)

    There is a real electronics store (and by real I mean walls of drawers and bins) but it’s 15 miles away…

    When you’re a young teenager and ordering online is rarely possible for you, being able to bike or drive to some store where you can pick up a few parts for a project is the most useful thing you can ask for, and it’s worth the extra cost.

    I just hope Radioshack remains for as long as possible, because of its convenience and availability. And although it would help to have a more knowledgeable work force, I don’t mind; I’ve been to the stores so many times I’ve practically memorized the store layout.

  9. @Marvin – I’m right there with you, I was there from 10/86 to 1/97, so you can imagine the changes I saw…

    When my RM said that there was no excuse for every sales person not selling either a computer, cellphone, or satilite dish every day, I knew he had a seperation from reality.

    In too many stores, the motto seem to be: “You’ve got questions, we’ve got blank stares.”

    I’d have to say, that when they whittled away the forcefeed section, it just went down hill fast.

  10. If Radio Shack wants to become relevant again they need to become the Ikea of the fab@home movement. This means carrying not only electronics but hardware as well. I am thinking of things like ball screws, extruded aluminum for building structures/cases both large and small, some sheet metals. To this end they should also look at carrying Stepper motors, Linear actuators, and Servos.

    A new tool line wold also be welcomed with things such as micro sized tap and die sets, tools for sheet metal bending (small sized stuff). Can I get some fricken laser beams? Maybe some optics parts to go along with it? Here are a few other things, Muscle wire, shapelock, suguru, bearings, shafts, gears, sensors, xbee chips, camera modules. good batteries like lion lipo and the mounts/ adapters so they can be incorporated into our projects.

    TRS80 introduced me to the world of computers. They now should introduce my kid to things like makerbot, cnc routers, and laser cutters.

    They should use communities like this one for new kits, but instead of having kits hang on a hook, they should offer a bounty to hackers to document their work. Example hacker Bob builds a cool project using RS parts. He writes up his project outlining RS parts, If RS likes his project he gets a rebate for all his parts. We the consuming public can hit an order now button and pick up at local store for the entire parts list. We the consuming public then get something like 10-20% off the entire project parts cost for buying everything from them. RS benefits from selling the whole project as apposed to me going to my scrap bin for half the parts. The in store sales person collects the parts and has them ready for when i walk into the store. RS gets to keep their underpaid idiot sales person as they are looking for a RS SKU instead of a 100k ohm resistor. we could call these virtual kits.

  11. I remember when Radio Shack (and Sears Roebuck) *did* sell amateur radio gear. The clue challenged sales staff would and did sell to anyone regardless of whether they had a license or not. It almost turned 2 meters into Citizens Band.

  12. I loved it when my DM said: Here, you get to write your own pay check.”

    My response: “Sure, but the customer is hiding the pen.”

  13. the local Shacks are actually filled with helpful sales folks, but they’re not typically stocked with what I need/want. They haven’t been for at least 15 years. Without all the DIY stuff, they’re not Radio Shack… they’re just another consumer electronics store with retail pricing.

    If radio shack REALLY wants to get back on the good side of it’s old customers… they would be more like a local family electronics store that carries a shed ton of components and discrete parts, speaker repair parts, speaker components, etc.

    I’m glad I don’t have to deal with Radio Shack any more… I go to Tanner Electronics.

  14. I look forward to Radio Shack being relevant again. I’ve tried to buy things there in the past year only to discover they don’t have them, or the staff has no idea what I am asking for.

    And yes, they fill the NEED IT NOW! niche. When I needed an HDMI adapter for a shoot, I ended up paying nearly $20, versus the $3 I would have paid online if I had time to deal with shipping. These are the things they need to resolve.

  15. I doubt they’ll ever be able to compete with e-shops or ebay sellers if they carry the same stuff at much higher price with a workforce as knowledgeable as a broomstick…

    Sad but true, so I say let them die, besides it’s their own fault they got greedy and tried to shove into people’s throats stuff they never needed…

  16. Ummm… off-topic, but I checked the “Notify me of follow-up comments via email.” on this article.

    How do I unsubscribe from hack-a-day’s email? The email link sends me to wordpress where I’m supposed to log in.

  17. There are some Radioshack stores that are still decent. I remember my first trip to the Radioshack up here in State College PA (Penn State University)…I was freakin’ SHOCKED. The very front of the store and behind the counter are the standard batteries, cell phones, R/C toys, etc, but the entire back half was packed with tools and parts and all kinds of good stuff. Sure, they don’t nearly have everything, but it’s a small retail store. Far better than I expected.

  18. For me it’s the same problem I have with most other hobby or special interest stores. They can’t compete on a price basis and shouldn’t bother trying. I can buy milk and beer cheaper than at a convince store, but there are plenty of those in business.

    They should keep all of the little things in stock that you forget when ordering parts for a project or that frequently break, burn out, etc. Sure you can order it from china or wherever online for pennies on the dollar, but get ready to shell out for fast shipping and be ready to put that on hold for a few days at least.

  19. We in the Hackaday community should put together an organized plan to make next Christmas “Arduino Christmas” on a massive scale, nationally, in partnership with Radio Shack. Odd as that may sound, its our country, our country is in serious trouble (because of the fall in scientific literacy) and the open source hardware and software revolution is the only thing that can turn this situation without a massive campaign to fund schools from the government, which we all know is never coming. So, the only option is free software and open-source hardware. We can do this. What our community should do is figure out a way to join all of the various “hacker” groups together to design a kick-ass core of projects that will each serve as an introduction to a key concept – perhaps also giving the builder a self-built tool they can use in the future on other projects. Bootstrapping.

    We should apply the same kinds of thinking that has been used successfully to bring affordable learning/tools to the Third World because if we don’t, we will be part of the Third World soon.

  20. Ok I am about to ask a newb question. I have never played with an Arduino before and was wondering if there were any household or computer electronics that people would buy that have them in them. I mean like everyday items you would find in a lot of houses?

  21. I took my armatron apart years ago I used the gripper for a high school electronics project
    back in the lat 90’s

    but I agree armatron with a couple of dc motors rather than just one and a bunch of gears
    not that all the mechanical gears wern’t cool
    infact taking it apart as a kid gave me
    a greater respect for the usefulness of mechanical
    motion and transmission of that motion

    but here in canada we have no radio shack
    we have The source I worked at a Tandy canada
    repair/warrenty depot when the canadian version was bought by circuit city and by then every franchise radio shack had been bought out or run out by corperate ones I remember the dieing days of the franchise here I was young and stupid I would complain that the other RS had stuff cheeper I understand our loss now

    and I have no electronic stores near by RS was the only thing with in 50 miles I now have over a hours drive to a disappointment from a store that buys most of its stock from digikey anyways
    and with next day delivery from digikey

    but I got my job at the tandy repair depot due to a friend that got her entire electronic experience from working and running the local corporate RS.
    for years she ran many of them around the valley here until she finally got tired of it and Quit.

    I was fired for trying to give too good of service and follow up with customers to make sure that repairs that were done under warranty were still working well and that my work on their pc was to satisfactory and making sure people did not loose the precious files and photos they kept on their pc’s I was told I spend to much time with each case. the depot did not care if the computer came back again they got paid a abirtray amount for each competed repair so if a pc came back to get reformated 10 times they go paid 10 times.

    rather than trying to make the customer happy the were trying to make a buck it is no wonder they failed the money came from the stores or from corperate if the place was ran as one company
    not as seperate companies and everyone had one goal to make the customer happy by providing good service at a reasonable price

    I could go on for hours about my sort time working there

  22. @Killerbug –

    The Boy Scouts do have the electronics badge, computers badge, radio badge and energy badges. And probably another 10 that are useful for electronics.

    But those badges aren’t specifically about making someone employable, they’re part of a larger character building process.

    And judging by the assholery you just displayed, it’s a process you should’ve gone through.

  23. I’ll tell you what RadioShack got wrong. After 2 1/2 years of being the only employee at my location to have any idea what we even sold, let alone how to use it and what it would work with, I was let go 2 weeks ago for not selling enough cellphones. I was the most requested and appreciated employee at my location by all of the store’s regular customers. I always gave exemplary service to everyone who entered the door regardless of what they came looking for, and if I didn’t have an answer for them, I would find it. I was the person that people wanted to see when they came in. Every complaint I read about what people hate about the service at RadioShack and how they think it should be seemed to be describing exactly how I already operate.

    RadioShack can make all the claims and promises they want, but the chain of command there is so disjointed its very unlikely any changes of real substance will make it to your local stores. Even if the changes do make it down to store level, do you really think that the store managers are going to all of a sudden decide they don’t care about getting their cellphone commission checks?

    Everyone wants to come in and get free advice from an expert electrical engineer, but they aren’t going to get that for minimum wage. The closest you will see is a geek who’s obsession happens to land them employed at RadioShack until they can get a real job, and if the geek doesn’t like to be pushy and force phone contracts down people’s throats you really aren’t left with much.

  24. There still are some quirky mom-and-pop electronics stores out there that are AWESOME. When I lived up there, I used to frequent Electronics Plus in San Rafael. Wonderful little store that still had a hint of warm solder flux perfuming the air, and a giant LED MICR-style font blinking “Electronics Plus” sign in the back.

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/electronics-plus-san-rafael

  25. reading through these comments makes me a little sad and a little sick. (sick to think that some of you guys consider yourselves the engineers or tomorrow, yet can’t work out your own component values.)

    Why do you need knowledgeable people in the store?
    Why do the staff have to have clue?
    Why do you need them to help you design your product/project?
    Why do you need staff to draw out circuits for class B amplifiers (as was listed above) or any other simple circuit?
    What makes you think that the guys at any of these on-line stores are in anyway knowledgeable anyway? (some may be, not all will be, lots of times you can’t even contact them anyway.)

    What you need to do is do your own research; design your own projects figure out your own component values, look in their catalogue and go to the parts desk with a list of catalogue numbers.

    The staff need to be human pick and place machines, not experienced engineers put there to educate you for free.

    And from the companies point of view, when you take up 1/2 an hours time of am employee earning $10 an hour, designing you a circuit so that you can buy $2 of parts, then the company has lost all its profit margins and more.

    What you all need to do is get up of your own lazy behinds and learn to design/build/trouble shoot your own circuits.

    The staff aren’t there to chat, and if you don’t already know all your component values with their and all your wire gauges etc needed then you aren’t ready to start ordering components anyway, you can’t order on-line without knowing your component values, what makes you think that you should be able to go into a shop without knowing such critical information.

  26. I don’t expect them to draw my circuits for me. I do expect them to know what I’m talking about when I ask where I can find the solderless breadboards.

  27. To be fair, if you’re looking for a specific part and the staff don’t know where it is on the shelf/shop floor, then that is poor staff training.
    Not knowing what it is, by the by is completely irrelevant, the fact that they can’t even direct you to a part is what matters.

    When I walk into a supermarket, I might need to ask a sales assistant where the flour is, I don’t expect them to know how to bake, even though they are working in a food shop, their knowledge of food is irrelevant, the only thing I need them to know is the layout of the shop and where they and their co-workers have put things… I can help further by explaining that it’s a home baking item perhaps -but I don’t expect recipe advise of baking tips from shelf stockers.

    Whether you read what was written on the 80 off comments above my last or not, the views expressed in my post were aimed entirely at those above that had been complaining that the staff couldn’t help them choose their component values, or the talk of the “good old days” when staff could draw out schematics and help choose values.

  28. So basically, screw the sales initiatives of the past 20 years (or however long it’s been) and have part of the employee’s wage derived from commission? I know how this sounds, but it seems like a good plan to me. AND I would apply for a job. I know enough geeks to keep me in employment for some time to come.

    If you’ve got the employees, you’ll get the stock. If you get the stock, you get money. Sell 100-piece packs of the cheap stuff, because if you charge more for them, it’ll be shrugged off as convenience, yes? Must send this to my brother; he worked for them and was let go at around the time they began to suck.

  29. Dude I have been waiting for radio shack to move from those propeller kits to arduino’s. Alot of people give radio shack’s a hard time and while Alot of the employees don’t know squat in the diy parts and there are a lot of stores with little to nothing of use. I have been blessed with a store that stocks the hound out of its self with parts to buy. When I first went there they had a barely passing supply but after I bought boards project boxes,boards tools, “getting started with electronics” and alot of other stuff they now stock all of forrest m. III books, vellman kits, and every year there’s more and more that now new tools and parts sit on top of the parts draw cause theres no more space :D SO I SAY HELL YEAH only problem i just bought one online :P

  30. @jh: Tanners is amazing. For the uninitiated, they’re a surplus shop that sells a lot of odds and ends with a selection oddly similar to bgmicro.com (though they’ll tell you they’re unaffiliated). But they also have a well organized selection of through-hole parts and tools. I no longer live in Dallas, but when I find myself heading up there I’ll stay a little longer on 35E and visit for a while.

  31. I think Radio Shack should carry a selection of Sparkfun branded kits and arduinos. Sparkfun has a support system of enthusiasts, so there is no need to train the minimum wagers at the R/S store. The value added by the Shack is the local access, not the technical expertise of the staff. Exciting catalogs/brochures should be available at the stores to educate beginners.
    I fondly recall the Forrest Mimms project booklets which listed the R/S part numbers for the components. I too was saddened to see the focus shift to cell phones and consumer glitz. But.. it’s not too late for redemption.

  32. I still have a huge pack of those books, all held together with a big loop of nylon wire tie.

    I refuse to get rid of them, they are too valuable as a reference.

  33. Radio Shack — I haven’t done business with RS in about five years. The reason … I walked into the newly renovated local RS and asked ‘the help’, “Where are the LED’s located?”

    She motioned me to follow her to the counter, where in a very sincere voice, she ask, “Sir, how do you spell that?”

    With out missing a beat and with the straightest of faces, I replied, “L E D.”

    Her head tilted about twenty degrees off center, she paused a couple of heart beats, and then said, “I don’t think we have those.” I turned, walked out, laughing to myself, knowing I wouldn’t be back. But, it looks like I may have to give them another try.

  34. you can’t compare a 150 in 1 electronics kit and come up with the reason why customers are complaining about prices. Try, instead, to look at the price of an RCA connector, a toggle switch, a pack of 5 resistors, or even the price of a simple transistor and you’ll start to see what the problem is. I’m never going to buy an experimental electronics kit from R$. I might buy discrete components or connectors, though, if it were worth the cost.

    And I’d say item #10 on the list is the primary reason I don’t go there. Can’t stand the way the sales people constantly badger the customer asking if they need help. It gets even worse when I try and explain what I want and the sales guy/girl can’t understand what I’m talking about well enough to even help me. (though, most of the time I don’t want their help because they’ll drift over to where they *think* the item is and then say, “yeah, we don’t carry that” when the reality is they were looking in the wrong place. Don’t try to help me – especially if you’re only guessing that you understand my request.)

  35. First simply ham will suffice, the term is not an acronym So HAM is not necessary.
    I’m about to serve up some whine here as well too. The closest RS is a 50 mile round trip, any beyond that is a 180 mile round trip, so I never hopped in the car to go buy a single item because it was handy, weeks would go by before I would be in one of their stores, things had to wait. Here the towns that had a RS also had another parts store, they are long gone, Even they turned to selling consumer items to the public in an effort to be able to keep the doors open, Auto tape decks, CB, even before the CB fad of the ’70s.

    I happy to see RS making the effort, and hope they succeed but I’m cynical, and see a failure. Mostly because what I read in this and other comment forum. No retailer can pleas all the people all the time. Complaints about how RS staff approach them after they walk in the door WTH? That’s the small stuff NOT to sweat. I would guess those same folks would complain how they had to hunt down a RS staffer for help if they had trouble locating what they where looking for. As a company that maintains brick & Mortar stores in cities that don’t break 20K in population, it’s highly unlikely RS will ever have enough sales in components to be able to match the prices the mail companies charge, much less beat them. Those who keep hammering away on that issue only show know little about business. I think Ill start calling Allied, Mouser uncompetitive because they don’t have stores down the street from RS :) I really doubt RS could move enough amateur radio gear or arduinos to make stocking them profitable. As I said I hope they can make it work, but I’m skeptical

  36. I can’t see me using RS because they can’t stock what I need at the prices I want. The only reason I would use them is if I had to have something immediately. Otherwise I am using Mouser. With mouser I can call them and have an order the next day, if they don’t have what I need they have a research department that will try to find it and that department actually knows about the products they are selling. Try telling someone at RS that you need a NPN transistor or a mosfet and they will look at you or say they don’t have it because they don’t know what it is.

    There is no way Rs can compete with companies like mouser that can sell resistors for 3 cents and chips like the 16f877 or 16f84a for $2.

  37. Maybe it’s just me, but I live in a little hick town (Okeechobee, Fl) and while the Radio Shack here doesn’t stock development boards or nichrome wire, pretty much every other part I’ve stopped in for (battery enclosures, project boxes, resistors, voltage regulators, solder, etc.) has either been in stock, or stocked quickly, and the staff is fairly knowledgeable. Sure, I can get the parts cheaper online no doubt, but when i get a wild hair up my…hind parts to make or modify something, I want to do it NOW. I’ll pay the 10-15% more to have that ability.

    My only beef is they aren’t 24 hours ^_^

  38. I see your hick town and raise you a clewiston, fl. I feel the pain of all the comments made here. The simple fact is they don’t care enough stock to interest and anybody that electronic projects, and till they do and become a reliable place to get the items you need they will never win that customer base back. They have some information to work with now let’s see if they do anything with it.

  39. after working for RS for a year and a half, and realizing that I knew more than the entire staff save one other nerd like me. now, I don’t know about all you out there, but our RS stores are usually extremely tiny, like 3 or 4 long aisles. when i worked there (around 2005 or so) they still pushed you to sell a cellphone, service plan, credit card, and all that, but it wasn’t demanded of you.

    But, regardless, they need to start forcing people to take the tests I took, instead of just allowing the bare minimum to sell, which is basically, cellphone quiz, intro to selling, and blank stares 101 (always a customer favorite)

    as to help out RS as a whole, I agree with a lot of these posts. Years upon years ago, i bought the intro to digital electronics book from RS, and it was a damn good primer and easy to understand for a 10 year old. restock those series, and update them to include new info kthx.

    RS should stock parts, decent soldering equipment (wellers, hakkos, or even the somewhat inferior Aoyue), project kits, parts, and generally “fun” things, like lego mindstorms and erector sets to help bring in fledgling designers or even prototype builders.

    even a “build your own computer” kit (like the apple 1 replica, the Replica 1) would be seriously cool.

  40. So I guess there are no household products the Arduino comes in? I asked earlier but no one seemed to notice it. I see people talking about them all the time read all the posts but have never heard of a household product with one.

  41. @Vampyredh – I’ve seen them USDED in just about every household appliance you can think of, alarm clocks, home automation, etc, etc.

    If you’re looking to rip something in your home apart to find one inside it, you won’t. Think of Arduino as a project platform, including a specific set of hardware and software put together to make building your own projects very easy.

    That’s not to say there aren’t many variations and implementations though. :)

  42. Here’s an idea…

    Don’t stock a large assortment of components in the store.

    Stock a large assortment of components at a warehouse within 4 hours of many stores. So, if you go into the store in the morning and order a component, it should be there in the evening. If you go into the store mid-day and order a component, it should be there the next morning.

    Then, you get most of the convenience of a B&M, with the selection of an online retailer. Plus, even online orders can be handled more quickly, this way.

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