Ask Hackaday: What Can Save RadioShack?

The news for RadioShack is not good. The retail chain that we hackers hold near and dear to our hearts is in financial trouble, and could go under next year.  With just 64 million in cash on hand, it literally does not have enough capital to close the 1,100 stores it planned to in March of this year.

On May 27th, 2011, we asked you what RadioShack could do to cater to our community. They listened. Most of their retail stores now carry an assortment of Arduino shields, the under appreciated Parallax (why?), and even El Wire. Thanks to you. You made this happen.

Today, we are asking you again. But not for what RadioShack can do better. We’re asking what they can do to survive. To live. It makes no sense for RadioShack to compete in the brutal cell phone/tablet market, and makes every bit of sense for them take advantage of the rapidly growing hacker/builder/maker what-ever-you-want-to-call-us community. Let’s face it. We’re everywhere and our numbers are growing. From 3D printers to drones, the evidence is undeniable.

With 5,000 retail stores across the USA, they are in a perfect position to change their business model to a hacker friendly one. Imagine a RadioShack down the road  that stocked PICs, ARMs, Atmels, stepper motors, drivers, sensors, filament….like a Sparkfun retail store. Imagine the ability to just drive a few miles and buy whatever you needed. Would you pay a premium? Would you pay a little extra to have it now? I bet you would.

Now it’s time to speak up. Let your voices be heard. Let’s get the attention of the RadioShack board. You’ve done it before. It’s time to do it again. Hackers unite!

 

482 thoughts on “Ask Hackaday: What Can Save RadioShack?

  1. I say let the Rat Shack die. Michael’s should realize the market potential and expand their line- a few Arduinos and kits to start and expand as it grows. You could convert one aisle at a typical Michael’s and have more useful stuff than an entire Rat Shack. RS- you turned your back on us years ago- don’t ask us to bail you out now.

  2. RadioShack needs to return to it’s roots, which were hacker/maker-friendly.

    1) Turn the stores into Maker Shed-like retail locations, supporting hobbyists with items/kits that are hard to find elsewhere. Do not try to sell what mall kiosks sell.

    2) Employ people who can actually build things with the components that are being sold by the store, and can offer useful hints/guidance in the use of the products.

    3) Consider having a section devoted to used/surplus items, like an electronic flea market.

    4) Develop locations that are near food courts or coffee houses, where people can conveniently gather and exchange ideas in a relaxed setting.

    5) Open up locations in hacker/maker spaces, just as banks add locations in grocery stores.

  3. I live in Mexico, the RadioShack stores were good because you could buy hard to find components, now is full of crap. Just return to the basics, electronic components and ham radio. If they start suppling DIY stuff that would bring them back, but only if the price is low (same as other internet suppliers) but with out the shipping cost. It would be great if also the RadioShack Mexican stores do it.

  4. I think a lot of people are overcomplicating things here. 3D printing and membership fees? Really? Should they start selling slushies too? It’s RadioShack, a convenience store sized business for electronics, not a hacker space. And no, they shouldn’t turn into hacker spaces. That’s not the business they’re in.

    If they could sell components, kits, and electronics tools like they used to, that’s all I could ask for. I wouldn’t mind paying a little extra for the convenience of having it now, but they need to bring their prices down a bit too. With that said, they need to actually sell something I would consider buying, and that’s a pretty big feat for RadioShack of 2014.

    Get rid of the consumer electronics, get rid of the random computer components, and above all; get rid of the cellphones. The company has had an identity crisis for so long. They need to focus on selling things to electronics enthusiasts. Microcontrollers and a gaggle of kits could be loss leader items to get people in as the rest of the components are normally necessary. A good selection of electronics books and magazines would be nice.

    Kits, kits, and more kits. Kids love kits. Heck, I love kits. If the store was chock full of them again, I would genuinely be thrilled. I’m a bit young for the Heathkit era, and I wish it would come back. There are so many cool things out there they could sell, even today! If RadioShack could display the finished product of certain kits, that would be a platform to get new customers into the market. What about robots? Sure! Sell reasonably priced robot kits and I guarantee I’ll visit the store again.

    What about branding? Branding costs money and is something the store should put on hold or outright forget about. They need to focus on cutting prices, and I think branding is an unnecessary thing for them to be pursuing in light of the company’s financial situation. Besides, people aren’t going to go out of their way for a RadioShack branded anything right now. It’s just not happening.

    There’s definitely a gaping hole in the brick and mortar market for electronic enthusiasts. There is huge market potential, but looking at how RadioShack has been operating for the past 15 years, I’m not holding my breath. I truly hope they make a comeback, but they have a lot of work to do, and they’re not going to do it selling Beats headphones.

  5. Its quite comical that Radioshack thinks having a 3’x3’x3′ area for a Uno here, a parallax there, and maybe a few overpriced shields is catering to us. Its not. You want to survive? Stop wasting retail space on 30 different cell phones. Use that space to get back to your roots, electronics.

    Do you really need all those displays to sell batteries? More wasted retail space. How about all the floor kiosks with crappy RC toys and such. With Toys r Us and big box stores, again, why waste the space.

    If you want to survive, make it like you used to be. Where I can walk in and get everything I need for a project in one stop. Lets face it, you’re prices cannot compete with online pricing. But the convenience of no wait cash and carry is what can save you.

    Yes, you sell arduino unos and megas. Great. But I need a wide range of components, connectors, shields, what have you. You used to carry these items. Well, if I come into Radio shack to obtain my parts list. And you have 3 of the 20 items I need. Guess what? Since I have to order online anyways, why wait and get the arduino online too (and save about $7 by doing so).

    Stop trying to be a toy store. Stop trying to be Tmobile. Pick what you want to be and stick with it, your store is too small to cater to everyone. And its blatantly obvious that you approach of “please everyone” is not going to work, your locations are simply too small. Focus on the hacker / maker / electronics community solely, like you did in your roots, and they will surely keep you aloft. If not, Fry’s is always there (and well stocked I might add)

    Keep trying to be what you

  6. I think that ‘Pack of Lies’ pretty much nailed the coffin. So, let them die and let’s all go and build something.

    See…

    “Pack of Lies says:
    August 6, 2014 at 7:15 am
    Ha! Radio shack is a business, and a business has to show a profit to support the ….”

  7. Sure, they have shields, el wire, etc., but at greatly inflated prices. Odds are that if you are working on a project, you won’t even be able to find the resistor you need-unless you are willing to buy an over-priced assortment to get the ONE you need. The only thing they are really interested in selling is cellphones.

  8. I hope they can turn things around. I have many fond memories of Radio Shack. As a teenager, I started to like car stereo and home audio, and they had the parts and other things for both. I bought countless adapters, wires, (that 16 gauge megacable with the clear jacket and red stripe–AWESOME) and even speakers and electronics there. I bought raw drivers for absolutely no reason just to screw around with them. All that said, I know where RS went wrong. And not all of it is their fault.

    The world of electronics has changed. People are becoming less “doers and makers” and more pure “consumers” who want everything, want it now, and want it as cheap as possible. The DIY hobby kits went away, as did many tools and caps and resistors, etc. But that part of the business could make a comeback with Raspberry Pi kits, and tiny footprint (but good quality) desktops that can be upgraded with better video cards, processors, sound cards, cooling, etc…Sell 3 upgrade stages per desktop (good, better., best) and that could be the [i]new[/i] DIY/Hobby angle. Push Linux too, but offer windows of course. More on that later.

    I just knew they were in trouble when in the mid/late 90s, the got a new CEO that was all about expanding/stock prices. I had a RS employee in the Marlton, NJ store brag about this as he was handing me the new catalog for that year and spouting percentages and numbers and stock prices, and I knew then, he was deluding himself. Things were about to get bad.

    They went “cheap” by ditching their brands, and going to the soulless, bland RCA brand. But, in fairness, the times were changing in that speakers were becoming smaller and that whole WAF bullshit was taking hold, since 5 speakers were needed for this whole new home theater thing. Most men weren’t going to get away with 5 Mach One sized speakers to watch movies (I know they went away years earlier, but tell me that wouldn’t be AWESOME?!?!?)

    Right before that, they had a chance to really hit it out of the park with their LX series brand of speakers. The LX5 was 60% of a complete speaker when they needed 80% or, preferably, 90%. It has achieved “minor classic” status, but it could have been even “bigger”. And better. I had them, and was not particularly impressed. I actually sold them, and I almost never sell things like speakers. The LX7 was forgotten, the LX8 has many many fatal build quality/design issues that *ruined* what could have been THE star of the bunch, and the floor stander had cheap, thin walls, and ultimately failed for build/part quality reasons.

    The move to cell phones and the clientele it attracts, and I suspect the burdens it puts on its employees probably crushed morale in an already cynical climate as well.

    I read that Chicago tribune article, recently. Some commenter suggested RS needs to sell more phones. That is the last thing they need to do. They need to focus on:

    1.) Audio cables, fuses, speaker wire, terminals, connectors, etc.

    2.) Computer cables for Mac/PC,

    3.) Raspberry Pi kits, (stress the DIY angle) and even bitcoin mining kits.

    4.) 3 levels of small footprint desktop computers / HTPCs each with 2 levels of upgrades for the processor, video cards, audio cards, fans, cooling, power supply etc. (This would make a “good better best” option. Sell to the novice to intermediate computer enthusiast who likes to upgrade every so often. they buy the “good” computer, make an upgrade or two, or they can buy the “best”–more $$ at first, but ultimately cheaper than upgrading a bunch of times. Hell, sell the iMac, or the Mac Mini too. Maybe provide in-store hardware switching, as well. Do it right there, or do a “same day” drop off service.

    5.) Bring back speakers and speaker building. Partner with Parts Express or someone else, and sell basic speakers and speaker building kits. (I hate to say it, but PE and even MCM do the raw driver thing better than Radio Shack ever did) Offer 5 types of pre-made speakers, speaker kits (drivers and boxes) and speaker cabinet kits. Sell the cabinet kits in flat boxes like the new MDF kits from Parts Express. (minimus/bookshelf/floorstander/subwoofer/L-C-R) For raw drivers, offer good, better and best for each size. Meaning good/better best tweeters, (4/5/6/8/10/12/15 inch) Get the hobbyists coming back in and looking.

    6.) Cut down the cell phones or get rid of them completely. Go back to Archer for home projects, Optimus for your higher end audio/video, and Realistic for your entry level/portable/PA audio and raw drivers.

    7.) Here’s a novel idea: cater to the people that want anonymity and security. Sell USB internet “anonymizers” you can plug into your laptop, and the virus cleaners made by trusted sources. Make DIY security kits for your car and home. Anti “code grabbing” technology for cars, and even garage doors. Push ANTI-surveilance kits and security for the home, auto and internet.

    8.) Be THE new 3D printing place. Push 3 models (good/better/best) and grades of plastic. Possibly try routers for wood and metal, depending how expensive they are and how big and bulky they get currently. In addition to providing 3-D printing plans and parts, sell “starter kits” for kids with little motors to make little programmable robots. Imagine making your own version of a roomba, or even pet companions for animals that suffer separation anxiety. Or if rabbits are eating your garden, make a little motorized animal pest control ‘bot to scare away Thumper. I see they are partnering with the Make people, and that is good.

    9.) Work with, even sponsor, related kickstarter projects in new fields. Start a website to send potential projects for approval and sponsorship. Provide approved projects a cash prize or a percentage of sales or even employment.

    10.) Build a bigger website presence to attract people who do not like to shop in stores anymore. It doesn’t have to be the best…Shoot for 75% as good as the competition. Show “Available Locally” for items that can be picked up in a store 0-50 miles away.

    Radio Shack may not ever cater to the “Master Race” crowd, but they can still get that 75 % of the public who have interest in technology. Provide multiple levels of products at good prices that the majority of the public will want.

    1. Regarding Speakers. RS would develop a nice speaker, with cast metal frame, walnut veneer, good sound. The next year they went back to the manufacturers and said, make it cheaper, but make LOOK the same! So the frame was metal covered plastic, the walnut became a printed wrapper…etc. and the next year, you guessed it, they went back to the mfgr and said “Make it cheaper, but keep the same look!”

  9. The Lowes in my town does something called Build and Grow. You can sign up with your kid and build a little wooden project. You build the project, your kid has a great time, and you end up thinking, “We should do this more often.” Then you see that they sell more kits for you to do with your kid and next thing you know you’re building more projects with your kids. Radioshack could do something similar. Most of the Lowes projects are related to a new movie or tv show so I am sure it comes at a discount for them.

    I also agree with the hackerspaces idea. If they added a 3D printer and a laser cutter to my store or even the store in the next town over I would be there.

  10. Most what I’m seeing here are pie in the sky “become a hackerspace” comments. In Radio Shack’s view, I think that is in error. Right now, they are in a fight to survive the quarter. So what they need to do is rather diffuse, but direct to their survival.

    1. List all stores that are currently (and for the last 2 quarters) in the red. Get rid of them. If there are multiple stores in the same city, close all but 1 in X radius, and use the staff to assist in closing said stores. Reiterate as many tines as you need until all the stores that have been negative 6 out of 8 last quarters.

    2. Your stores are in prominent locations, albeit in very expensive tenant locations. Many of these places reside in areas of rents in excess of $5000/mo AND X% of revenue. You need to move to much cheaper areas. Yes, the malls are highly trafficked. But the main RS sales is cell phones and batteries…. How about the ATT store, Verizon store, franchises of above, Best Buy mall outlet, and plenty others? Targeting cheaper places means cheaper prices for customers.

    3. Once money situation improves slightly (less negative), use income to bolster small quantities of varied electronic products. Troll through Amazon, eBay, and AliExpress for top interests and trends. Get a few per store and FLAUNT them. Our goal is we want to have them, not boatloads of them! For XMAS, get eToys that aren’t in toy stores of big box stores.

    4. I’m 32. I remember when Radio Shack had intelligent people with varied technological prowess. When I turned 18, I remember the saying abut RS: “You’ve got questions, we’ve got blank stares”. In this light, test employees in ranges of technological prowess. If they pass, they get a raise. Also you never again hire sales drones. You want to slowly migrate to the technical specialist / sales.

    5. Get bins of varied parts. You don’t need lots of the same part. Instead, you want a broad sampling of all sorts of stuff. Markup is name of the game. I just got a 25-tube of 8bit shift registers for 3$. I would have paid 3$ for a single. Nearly immediate parts is awesome for many purposes, and doesn’t take much space. It is, however, a big money sink. You can solve this by ‘recipe cards’ of cool projects. They’re free schematics of nifty projects. Include things like sensors and lasers. Grocery stores do this.

    6. As a longer term goal, get a laser etcher/cutter per store, along with a 3d printer. As a Radio Shack service (bucks per hour designing, bucks per minute doing), do jobs revolving these ideas. You dont want customers doing this. Bad idea. Instead, spin it out to RS techs who do this for a living.

    But they will most likely die. They’ve catered to the lowest common denominator for a wee too long. And anybody can carry expensive cell phones and overpriced batteries. Do something different.

  11. If they had the retail version of something like evilmadscientist.com I think they would do well. Maybe some kind of workshop or someone who could get advice, something to not only be hacker friendly but grow the customer loyalty. I used to be able to tell you where and what was in my local store and it was my go-to place for specialty items. The last time I was there I got batteries. Now you just get the same level of non-service I can get at McDonalds. I can get batteries at the CVS on the corner.

  12. I recently did the Radio Shack weekend project on the inside front cover of Make magazine. Make asked me to do another one that they saw on my website, hackaweek.com. I said no because Radio Shack doesn’t carry all the parts needed. This is a common problem. They have this whole weekend project thing going and then can’t stock the parts!
    They’re doomed.

  13. 1) They need to rebrand reflecting that they understand that their core customers now are makers, electronic hobbyist, inventors, artists not ham radio operators. They need to hire help from this community, their employees should understand the difference between a 3D printer and a CNC Mill and why you would want to buy or rent time on one over the other. They should partner with Makezine, not only in branding, in operations as well. Some of their employees know this, some give me funny looks when I ask for a diode or resistor. This is serious, they are going out of business in the middle of an exploding market, and losing significant shareholder value, if they don’t turn this around it will hurt.

    They need to call every hacker space in their community and get leadership on at least an advisory board, if not the board of directors.There is a huge market, and the market for them has had significant changes.

    They should be involved in the educational system, selling educational kits to schools, after school programs, they should sell kits for Google cardboard, and the like.

    Their 40 in 1 electronics project kit heavily influenced me in elementary school, while we don’t use breadboards anymore, similar kits that show how things like math have hands on impact on real world projects are important.

  14. Well it appears that RS is doing “something” new to save itself. They are opening “interactive stores” in key test markets across USA. The latest is NY, DC, SF, and NO/LA.

    Basically they will be the solution for incompetent salespeople, slow repair service, and inability to do instant in-store product comparisons. They will be kiosk touch screens (tablets?) that will allow a RS tech to triage your broken mobile and may allow them to repair it on-site without shipping it out. The kiosk will allow the “hard” questions to be asked remotely bypassing the minimum-wage commissioned salesperson. Also you can do online product comparisons. There will be many of these devices throughout the store and sales people will not disturb you with pointless questions unless you actually need help.

    I think that if everyone here at HaD was willing to tell Joseph C. Magnacca, RS Chief Executive Office, that if he were to delegate to his people the job of setting up a research FOCUS GROUP in key locations across USA to address the question: “The end of RS? What are are next steps suggestions…”, he just may do it. You only need to volunteer for FREE to participate. RS will supply the snacks however. :-P

    Unfortunately the posting I made with the telephone number, email addresses, and fax number for RS Corporate in FT Worth TX was summarily [removed/redacted] without notice from HaD by someone for wholly unknown reasons, so I won’t post it again. You’ll just have to GOOGLE it like I did (was a lot of pointless work too – thanx whoever did it). :-/

    This move toward INTERACTIVE STORES was the 100% CORRECT move. However, you will see another probable mistake in business strategy from RS executive management, namely ostensibly “Invasion of privacy” devices for senior citizens (i.e. Lively Corp systems). This remote sensor technology will probably go the way of the RS cell phone business. The gadgets have a built-in cellular service for about $25 a month ($40 setup fee). They essentially spy on mom and/or dad to make sure they are taking their pills and haven’t fallen down or something (etc etc)

    Although this is a very noble and great idea worthy of an ex-WALGREEN’s drugstore chain executive, it is NOT the business model to jump into competing with companies like LIFE ALERT and others. RS is ostensibly putting “all of its eggs into this basket” to save themselves and IMO I think it is without merit. However, LIVELY is tickled pink!

    Everything said here by the HaD denizens is right on the money! Someone needs to shake Joe’s cage a little and make him smell the coffee (and not the Chapter 7/11 that LRE (Lafayette Radio Electronics) experienced due to RS’s ONCE brilliant strategies). He needs to understand that RS is NOT a pharmacy chain. It’s a consumer electronics chain on the cutting edge of technology.

    Many government technology labs (i.e. DARPA, etc.) view them as the “go to” OTC/COTS place to go for quick & dirty projects. After this not any more…

    1. Also let me add that EXECUTIVES are not the most up-to-date technologists in the world. When (or if) you get the chance to pitch your ideas please drop the word “hackers” and other euphemisms that go RIGHT over their collective heads.

      They have no idea wake a HACKERSPACE is or any other pronoun that seems to be coined by HaD folks. They have no idea what a 3D Printer is let alone letting you use one in the store. They don’t even let customers use regular printers in the store. People like Joe probably don’t remember the GOOD OL’ DAYS of early RS as he is not that old and is not a technology-buff like you. He wouldn’t know a Arduino from an Orange or any other kind of fruit.

      Just realize that you will have to serve as a “subject matter expert” translator for them IF you get a chance to speak up about this matter. They are all sitting at the board room table trying to please Joe and his arguably feckless pharmacy chain mentality. All he wants to see is a commercial prospectus in his lingo. Consider that if you get a chance to help out.

    2. Please, I’m sure I’m not the only former Shacker here on HaD. We can all tell you, that there’s a few front line grunts who do the company proud. The rest are dead weight. The executive staff suffer from “Not my idea-itis”, if it wasn’t their idea, they will not only not support the idea, they will quash it out of existence. Sadly, I believe that we will see Radio Shack go the way of Heathkit and Lafayette in out lifetime. Our children will not have an electronics shop to hang out at and learn from the old-timers. Heck, I remember the day my manager told me to drag the tube tester out to the dumpster. Maybe that was the beginning of the end.

      1. @Steven – I remember LRE and Heathkit. I used to work for them too. Heathkit had the right idea but was too much of a specialized niche-market as well. They needed to diversify like RS did back then and survived.

        I get your point about “Not my idea-itis” – it’s all about egos. I do not want to invoke the “Peter Princible” so I won’t. In the long run when and if RS gets to the edge of the precipice, they will be bailed out by a corporate acquisition or merger. Who that company will be is anybody’s guess: AT&T, BestBuy, Walmart, Target, Trump, Microsoft, Schlumberger, etc.

        In the long run that HOUSEHOLD NAME “Radio Shack” can not be allowed to die. Somebody will take it over. Maybe that’s what Joe is hoping too. Maybe that’s what he’s counting on. Maybe if they get lucky a Prince from UAE who really likes the product line at the Dubai store will pump some major “dirhams” into RS. Of course all the female employees at corporate (possibly in Dubai in the near future) will have to wear traditional UAE garb.

        Can you imagine RS’s Jennifer S. Warren and Janet Fox in BURKAS?! (LOL)
        BTW these two women will probably be the ones responsible for the implementation of whatever saves RS (or not).

  15. I was just discussing this with the missus. I thought Radio Shack might as well shrink a little and fully embrace being the niche maker spot, expanding on the whole “Do It Together” thing they have now, carrying Arduinos and soon LittleBits, and so on. However, I wondered if that’s even financially possible, given the demands of investors. And it seems to be confirmed in the post here, they don’t even have enough money to close stores and consolidate anyway. So, unfortunately, I think the only thing that will work is if they liquidate, someone buys the brand and some of the old stores, and starts a new maker/hacker shop. I personally don’t believe that simply focusing on the DIYer will make enough money save all, or even most, of Radio Shack’s stores.

  16. If it hasn’t been mentioned before (tl;dr)

    Get Out of the Malls! The rent alone is killing you! Get back into the store fronts in the non-mall parts of town. Maybe next to or 3 doors down from a hackerspace.

  17. I think they just missed the boat. I have a microcenter near me and they have all the good brands on the shelf… from RPi, Arduino, 3D printers, to every computer part you need, and they will match online prices. Why would I ever, ever, ever step foot in a RadioShack again? They started so well with TechUSA (I think thats what it was called, basically a Microcenter owned by RadioShack in the 90s)… but then clearly couldnt keep the train on the tracks. Maybe it was just pure greed and laziness. Sorry I can offer more, but it looks grim. I look forward to the out of business sales. Years ago I got a bank of parts drawers from a RadioShack going out of business and I just love them… if I can I will buy more.

  18. The Radio Shack where I live just got a complete remodel. They are now selling 3d printers. Considering I cannot afford a 3d printer and the fact they had one on display for demonstration purposes, I asked if they would print stuff for me if I paid them a reasonable fee. Their response… I don’t know, let me send an email. If you ask me, the answer to that question is a no brainer. It’s a resource they already have in the store and most people do not have access to. Most people however do have access to a radio shack. It turns out they will do it for me but nobody will give me a price. They did however let me know I would be stuck with whatever filiment was already in the printer. :( Short sighted if you ask me.

  19. I’m sure everyone is familiar with that metal cube stacked with pull-out drawers that all Radio Shack stores have. I’d like to see them dragged into the street, SHOT, and BURNED. Consider stocking a reasonable assortment of electronics. Maybe cut down on the space that filled with cell phones and other crap. I might make it into the store once in a while if I though there was a minor chance they had what I needed. I can pick between one of what, 4 capacitors on hand? Wow, really giving Mouser a run for their money .

  20. Well I just got a big dose of one of the things that’s killing Radio Shack… Last night I went into the Bensalem, PA store (Street & Hulmeville) to buy an IR receiver (276-640), the website said they had them. I couldn’t find them, the employee couldn’t even find where they would be. She checked the computer and it confirmed that they were in stock (in theory) and she proceed to look in random drawers, giving the appearance of being helpful. She then said that they didn’t have them. I asked her where they would be, if they were in stock, she gave a vague gesture toward the back half of the store. I asked her to be more specific, could she show me the peg or bin where they would be if they had them,she refused. Employee apathy. That’s one of the big things killing the company, my question is, are they hiring the wrong people or is the company killing employee passion?

  21. Bring back bulk items like wire but add bulk items like cut tape resistors. Add more smd smt products. Even if only one or two stores added these things in my town, it would be awesome. Cant stand I have to wait days for an order of resistors or capacitors from digikey when radioshack could be carrying them.

  22. Diy days… more grass roots stuff. Public events. Stop trying to be a phone store, and try to foster interest in electronic hobbies. Give back to the community. Work with local colleges / educational institutions. This will help create a market for their products and earn the communities respect.

  23. Am I willing to pay a premium to get the parts I want right away, yes of course but $2-$3 for a single radial capacitor? Give me a break! I’m a college student with years of tinkering under my belt. I have learned how to deviate from schematics and substitute parts I find in broken office equipment or computers to make do. I only go to Radio Shack maybe three times a year in a real pinch, and most of the time I end up leaving empty handed because they don’t even have the most basic of parts.

    I always like to help out the younger generation whenever I can. I remember when I first started out I figured if the schematic calls for a 100uf 50v cap nothing else would do. If Radio Shack didn’t have it, I said forget it… Or if it called for a certain type of relay I would save up my money and spend freaking $12 on a single relay.
    I guess what I’m saying is it’s not enough to supply the most basic of parts. They need to be affordable, and there needs to be some variation nothing worse than seeing $20 worth of transistors go up in smoke just because you were experimenting with a different values because they didn’t have what you needed. $5 eh, maybe not such a big loss!

    Have you seen those new robot kits for kids that there selling? The starter kit is $150. I barely see $30 worth of parts there… I mean gosh you can go to Hobby Lobby and buy three OWI robotic arms for the same price and have a hell of a lot more fun!

    And apparently they sell 3d printers now??? But it’s like some off ball super expensive thing. If I recall they want over $20 for a new nozzle, really mine cost less than $3 on Ebay. Again I would be willing to pay a premium but not of this kind.

    Anyhow… Radio Shack needs to ditch the phones, the TVs, the AV cables that cost as much as a small TV and everything else that you can buy at Walmart for half the price… And focus on things that people can’t get anywhere else.

    I’m not talking just electronics either.

    When I was a kid I remember going to a store that sold nothing but parts to build little marble drop machines, and other stuff that you come up with in your mind. Not overpriced “building sets” that limit you to one or if your lucky two models… We’re talking THE BASICS plastic film canisters, cardboard tubes, little pulleys, strings, bells, gears, motors, heavy straws, dowel rods, glue, etc. And the stuff was dirt-ish cheap. What happened to that type of creativity in kids today? I think its still there. But we need to find a way to support it.

    Rant over.

  24. Possibly carry Amateur radio kits, Littlebits modules, and the like. Need to get kids involved in radio and electronics again, like it did for me, I became a Ham, a synthesizer musician, and an electronics engineer. Not a save all solution but it may help along with other suggestions.

  25. Instead of mobile phones and tables, start carrying RF radio cards, raspberry pi type small computers, hacker electronics…

  26. In Australia, Radio Shack folded years ago, we had home grown competion which provided bits much cheaper. I don’t think the 3D idea will last , printer prices are dropping fast and which hacker doesn’t want their own 3D printer? It would be a bit like opening a printer section in 1977 , dot matrix were the the same price as 3D now.
    I have to buy nearly all my parts online but that isn’t a big problem as I can usually buy 50-100 for the price I once payed for 2 ! so I now have large stocks and can launch into projects very quickly. So I really can’t help with the RadioShack business model.

  27. Radio Shack needs to court wal-mart. Imagine a RS inside each wall mart… just like subway, banks, and salons. It’s the one thing wal mart is missing… components. Then RS can concentrate on getting back to their roots.

  28. Here’s the real reason Hackers and the Maker community hasn’t embraced RadioShack: Remember back in high school and you’d tell some non-tech person that you needed a microcontroller, some resistors, capacitors, and an IR distance sensor for the proximity switch you were building? Remember the glazed looks and disdain you got?

    Those same people who looked at you like you had the plague work at RadioShack. It’s also a very lonely place. They’re often empty with the only other person being that store clerk who think’s you’re weird.

    So, train them to be excited about bits, bytes and chips, or at the least, train them to be friendly to bits and bytes. Train them to not attack like vultures when you walk into the store.

    Yes, there are some very good employees (as John mentions above), but many aren’t properly trained and the store environment looks like they won’t be knowledgeable. The stores look like you should be buying jewelry, not a motor controller. The store environment sets customers up to think the employees aren’t trained. Make the stores a little more casual, almost a bit messy.

    Then reach out to the community. Sponsor FIRST robotics. Sponsor hackerspaces. Give discounts for robotic clubs. Reach out to schools; K-12 and beyond. Get some PR and social media people that understand the techy people. Participate in community events. Conduct contests like SparkFun does. Work with SparkFun, Adafruit, and others like them. Really become active in the broad maker community – don’t just be a poser.

    Build some things and have them out on display for people to touch and handle. Showcase new technology things too. Set aside an area for people to display and show off their projects. Give people a reason to come in when they don’t need parts. Host “show and tell” events for people’s projects.

    Get out of the big malls. The rent’s too high and people that need parts don’t want to spend 30 minute searching for a parking spot first. Make the stores easy to get in and out of, but friendly enough that people won’t be scared away. Don’t try and hide the “Radio” part of the name. Be proud of being “RadioShack.” Let people know you’re proud of that name and heritage.

    RadioShack does seem to be trying, but they’re going about it like they’re hedging their bets: trying to be both hacker friendly and cold and clinical. They’re going to be gone in 12 months anyway, so what have they got to lose?

    To our friends at RadioShack: Dive in with both feet. Don’t go half way. Be fully committed to changing the brand back to what it once was. The world has come around and is ready for it again, but you need to attack it. You need to be relentless. You can do it. If you don’t want to, drop me a line and I’ll do it for you

    1. Radio Shack is a primeval dinosaur. The roots and base of Radio Shack have faded away. Chinese made goods that are not repaired, made by surface mount tech and programmed autotesters now rule. If it breaks it gets sold off to RMA sweatshop to be screened and sold at flea-markets and swap shops.
      It will never come back, just like the buggy whip industry.
      All the company can do is adapt to this, buy stuff in Asia and sell it. The parts area loses money, and looks expensive.

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