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!
484 thoughts on “Ask Hackaday: What Can Save RadioShack?”
I don’t think that too many will pay a little extra to have it now…Radio Shack was one known for being hacker friendly, so why not go back to those roots, 21 century style:
– create a hacker space in all stores, full with 3d printers and tools and charge a monthly membership fee for the privilege and have users pay for arduinos, plastic and whatnot.
If anyone has a better idea….
The Radio Shack I grew up with had a great inventory of electronic parts and under normal circumstances would not have to go much further to find what I needed, now instead of going to Radio Shack and just pick up what we need we are forced to order online and wait – wait – and then wait for our parts, IMO Radio shack took on the role as an outlet of cell phones for which there are just so many out there in the malls as well as online giving a much larger discount…
Hackers and electronics are not a dying breed but a growing one and in order for a company such as Radio Shack needs to recognize is that we are their future!
Unfortunately you do not represent the majority. People have stopped fixing their own electronics because of complexity, convenience and price points.
Also you might want to look into digikey, i live in canada and i get my orders next day with $8 shipping.
That is so full of sh**. The reason people don’t fix their own electronics, is because !everyone! owns them, while in the past those that owned electronics had to either build it themselves, or was extremely adept with electronics, as no one else really wanted electronics. The amount of people that buy electronics with the curiosity to learn them is growing, but the amount of people that buy electronics with no curiosity to learn them is growing faster. Therefore you have a disproportionate amount of those that know and those that don’t both using and playing in the same field, area, and domain. This the main problem. You can’t appeal to both, with the same tactics, and procedures, you need to specify what each demographic wants. The typical consumer knows nothing of electronics, and doesn’t care, while hackers care about everything and typically want to do it themselves. Your pretty much comparing philosophers to thug pushing hamburger flippers, and saying they have the same taste, needs, wants, etc, bull**** they do. Metrix Create Space in Seattle, WA(http://www.metrixcreatespace.com/) has built a sustainable model of a capitalized hackerspace. If radioshack wants to capture the new generation of hackers, this is where they should take their queue from. Then lead the front in opensource hardware, kits, etc. Buy the parts cheap from china or wherever, but sell kits to make nice products, that function, then sell the parts to fix the the error’s of buying cheap. Its a win-win, hackers will get the cheap price of buying online, yet build it themselves, and fix it when the time comes. Then do as they do now and sell the components with higher margin, everyone wins. Right now Radioshack does nothing but sell other peoples ideas, products, etc. yet are trying to compete with online companies that are on the forefront of the DIY revolution, they don’t have a chance, or the compete with large retail electronics chains for mainstream consumer electronics, which they are utterly failing. The CEO needs to read the Art of War, “Be where your enemy is not.” You epically failed that last part, your enemy is quicker, more mobile, faster to adapt, and more willing to take risks, you’ve all but lost the war if you don’t change.
Jeez son, fix that ‘Enter’ key.
(And you’re wrong anyway, tried fixing a custom ASIC lately?)
+100 This is a seriously awesome idea. Although, I disagree with your first point. I cant count the number of times i’ve driven to my local radioshack and WAY overpaid for components that I needed to finish a project that weekend.
There is a serious boom in RC aircraft and the need for makerspaces. If radio shack became the local makerspace with the tools (for cheap rent) and part (for sale), I think they would perfectly capture an emerging market!
I havent joined a makerspace because I cant justify the monthly dues when I may only need an occasional 3D print or laser cut job, but if I could go down to radioshack and pay a $20 for a 3D print and/or lasercut a bunch of material, I would probably put them back into business all on my own.
KEEP SWIMMING RADIOSHACK! Stick true to your fan base and provide these services we need!
Love the idea but it is not enough to save them. In Florida I can see a Hackerspace like RadioShack supporting maybe 20 stores max. In Wyoming maybe one. In california maybe 50, and in Texas maybe 30. That still means that the majority of stores will have to close. That is just the way I see it. Frankly I so hope you are right and I am wrong.
> In Florida I can see a Hackerspace like RadioShack supporting maybe 20 stores max
Well, that’s because you’re all the way in nowhere-ville Port St. Lucie. We’ve got a large hackerspace of 80+ members in Orlando, Florida called FamiLAB with members paying $50-$100/mo each. And that’s not counting all the members who’ve since moved to California. We’ve probably had easily over 300 members come and go over the past 4 years. Even been discussing having a “FamiLAB South”, because we have enough people who live near the Disney area that we could sustain a second place.
Ummm… You do not understand english very well do you. I said that you could probably support about 20 in Florida. With the 200,000 people that live in Port St. Lucie I doubt that we could support a single Radio Shack/Hackerspace. I believe we have at least two RadioShacks. Your post kind of makes the point that RadioShack hackerspace just will not work. Out of Orlando which has a large tech community and a major university the Hackerspace you are so proud of only has 80 members. So the Orlando area might support one RadioShack/Hackerspace. So out of the over 1000 Radio Shack stores maybe 200 could be saved as hacker spaces?
I don’t know about you, but my town of 100,000 has 6 hacker spaces that all have 50+ members.
Pixel Pirate: where do you live and can you lend me some of your spares?
The thing is, I’ve avoided going to Radio Shack and decided to either scrap something I’ve had on hand, or wait a day or two in order to avoid paying their exorbitant prices just as many times as you’ve gone.
Remember the last time you went into a Best Buy? Yeah, me neither. There’s a reason that B&M stores are dying — they don’t compete well with online counterparts on PRICING. When you factor in the gas prices to go over there and back, there’s almost zero chance I’m going to Radio Shack versus ordering with expedited delivery from Digikey if I need something relatively soon.
I’ll admit, I went to Radio Shack for some parts for work the other day. They were 5 bucks apiece, and we needed at least 10 of them immediately. If it wasn’t tied to an absolute rush immediate order we had to get out right away, we’d have gone Digikey next day and saved tons.
If you could upload your 3D print/laser cutter job to their store, then they could print/cut it while you drive over to pick it up. They should also offer the tools needed to create the files. If that can be done online without installing anything, all the better.
I would totally pay for this!
+1 I would pay for this service multiple times per week
Or pay for a membership, if that membership would be good at any radioshack in the country
I, personally, love the idea. I really disagree with a membership thing, but offering a miniature ponoko in every radioshack would probably double their profits in my town just from me. Make radioshack the pizza parlor of electronics.
I know many stores already offer pick-up in store for online purchases, I believe including radioshack. I think it’d be awesome to do that for regular parts, as well as custom things like PCBs, 3d prints and laser cut parts. I’d use a same-day no shipping cost pcb manufacturer all the time.
This. Yes. I would totally use this service. expand it to milling circuit boards as well. On the spot fab services will be a massive industry…eventually.. But is it too soon?
Also, if I had a subscription to a place where I could take a project to discuss technical details and problems, I’d totally pay for that. There’s a massive difference between seeking out solutions to problems on the web and actually discussing the problem real time. Hire college engineers. Have mentor programs. Be a beacon of knowledge and engineering. All this is great. But they need a massive money infusion and they need it now.
It isn’t too soon, but its right on the edge. This is what we do at Metrix Create:Space. For PCBs, we use a laser for fab. Takes less than an hour for most. We hire friendly knowledgeable people, and have real hours (open until midnight). Unfortunately, we don’t have 64 million dollars and 1100 stores.
Everything that has been written in this thread is exactly what RadioShack can do. Makers and hackers paces could single handedly revitalize RadioShack. We were once am inspiring country. Let’s get back to that.
I’ve recommended this same thing to SparkFun. This is where the state-of-the-art needs to be driven. To web-based design tools for rapid prototyping and custom fabrication. I love Radio Shack and hope we can all help to keep it around. It’s just time to update and lose the cel/tablet focus.
Though, the re-staffing effort would be enormous. I haven’t really met too many hackers or hack-savvy people who actually work there. Perhaps they could make an offer and I would run a store here in Minneapolis… ;)
I think this is the only way that RS could survive in any semblance of what they were.
I worked at the Shack twice in my life. Once back in the late 80’s and early 90’s when they took pride in their employees knowing how to do things. Certifications and training in repair of stuff and design courses on how to build circuits from their parts. Really a great training program and a lot of pride in their employees.
Then again, for some extra spending cash, around 2004. The change was 100% different. Absolutely 0 interest in having an employee that could help a customer out, instead wanting only cash register operators that could ask for your phone number and address. Didn’t make it any time that time around.
If the Shack would take their top stores in each area and turn them into micro hacker spaces and provide perks they could come back a bit. They could basically take their employees and train them up on the equipment, or they could offer an incentive program to the makers that visit to help others out (discounted time/membership/parts for experts). Then there would be a value prop that would be worth while. You don’t have to provide table saws and the like, just supply soldering stations, 3D printers, small CNC (at larger stores), specific hand tools for working on the unique screws that we find in the modern devices, etc…
There are at least 2 stores in my area with the square footage to do something like the above without impacting their inventory drastically.
Also a traveling space that had the bigger tools and could move to schools and/or events would be interesting. This would bring the community back behind the store.
Sadly though, I don’t think the monster can be tamed back in.
Completely agree with you there, Jdarling. Radio Shack turned themselves into a giant mall kiosk. 80% of their floor space is taken up by cellphones and bullshit car accessories. The workers know absolutely nothing about electronics and just don’t give a damn.
I can attest to this… I *lived* in my local Radio Shack when I was a kid… I even had the part numbers (catalog numbers) memorized for most of the things I used. I was just too young to get a job there. When I got older and tried to get a job there, I was literally told by the manager that I knew too much. They didn’t want people in there taking up the associates time asking questions, so by having ‘dumber’ associates, their time was freed up.
Most of the electronic parts are gone now… which was their niche. I will say it was a nice surprise to see them carrying Arduino stuff, and then a big shock when you see how much they want for it. I can understand a markup… they have to make money. But $60 for an ethernet shield is ridiculous.
Basically, Radio Shack took on the business model of Circuit City… and you see what happened to them. If they don’t do something to get away from that model…
Only $60 now? The last time I went in there, they wanted $100 for an ethernet shield.
Ha! Radio shack is a business, and a business has to show a profit to support the corporation. It isn’t as easy as it looks.
I worked in a similar business for a bit, and remember being shocked to learn that we purchased items for .34 and sold them $3.40, or that we purchased $100 gizmos and sold them for $189. It seemed like a ripoff, and unfair to the customers. Like everyone who hasn’t been inside the sausage factory, I thought these oppressive bastards were sticking it to everyone.
Then I slowly learned that a store has rent and overhead. It still seemed like stealing at the time, but I needed the job. Eventually I learned that you have to pay $1000+ a month for a store front ($5,000-$10,000 if it’s in a viable mall in a medium sized city) , $500 for electricity, $200+ for phones, $100 for internet (or more when it’s part of a big WAN), god knows how much for advertising, liability insurance, etc.
Now add in all manner of local taxes, memberships, fees and permits and a bunch of piddly stuff like repairs for all the little stuff that breaks or needs to be replaced PLUS the cost of someone to keep the books up. It adds up. Let’s be generous and say that the total works out to be $8k a month for a small store in a mall with one or two viable anchor tenants and a lot of empty spaces. And you have to be in a mall – if not, the only people who come in are more interested in your time than your products.
Keep in mind that most malls also take a cut of the gross receipts as part of the lease, and that any thriving mall (These days, that would be one with 60% or more of the spaces actually in use) is generally on it’s sixth or seventh set of owners who bought all the debt of the previous owners, and so that rent has been increasing at a pretty good clip over each decade. In a mall, that’s often about 3-5% increase per year for your average space. The rate of increase is tied to how many spaces are occupied.
I won’t bother breaking down the cost of minimum wage + spiff/bonus/incentives/yadda-yadda, but you can figure that a highly intelligent chimp making $11/hr is costing the company between $19-$23 an hour – and that’s right off the top. Most young new employees (not all) are almost useless in the beginning because they have to learn the facts of life yet. These facts include things like having payroll taxes deducted from your check, why showing up on time is useful, why you can’t dress like a camgirl and why calling in sick every few days is bad for your employer.
That doesn’t include the cost of any skimming (pocketing money from the till or the customer), shrinkage (“hey, These ungrateful bastards don’t pay me for my valuable time, so I’ll just put these headphones and batteries in my pocket so I’ll feel better!” and my personal favorites: “I gave these speakers to a cute girl to try/I thought this kid might blow me so I gave him an RC car/My friend came in and I slipped him a bunch of free accessories because he’s my friend.” It can add up.
I’m not being critical – all of these things happen in every industry. I’ll skip the full economic analysis, but the point is: These guys have a big ole company and up at the top are a handful of people who need to make bank for various reasons. They hold the whole thing together, and their culture is passed down to district managers and hired gun-slingers who make reasonable money but work a zillion hours. The district managers manage local managers, who make a wee bit more than your pimply faced recruit in a poorly fitting dress shirt and black mormon shoes. It all adds up.
Oh yeah, you have to actually buy and stock merchandise, all of which is repackaged into your brand name packaging. And figure you’ll have warranty issues and returns for 2-5% of it as a rule. Your warranty/returns might be higher from time to time because a different factory in china made your widgets this time, using only parts rejected from the previous factory.
Oh, and someone has to pay to ship and distribute all this stuff. The people up and down the chain all have their complaints and misgivings as well, and you have to figure on a few of them working against the company from time to time. All this support infrastructure costs a lot. So let’s say that we’re looking $40k a month in sales on average required to keep the doors open and 5-6 people (a manager, a couple of long-timers and 3 bungee girls) in the store.
Oops, we forgot taxes to cover social security, health care, sending the troops to our various performance art pieces and lining the pockets of the folks running our fine country. Let’s just ignore those for now, because most companies have figured out how to siphon a big chunk of that out of the country. Luckily, our government is on the job to fight back by running the printing presses day and night to inject billions and billions of dollars back into the economy by handing the money over to the same guys siphoning money off shore. It’s gonna be spectacular at some point, but we’ll all survive once we get used to using wheelbarrows as wallets.
Anyway, back to the point: How many capacitors @ .35, resistor packs @ .99 and arduinos @ $xx.xx does the company have to sell to their loyal hacker customer base break even?
It’s not that simple, since you have to subtract the cost to the store for these brand name packaged items. Hint: That cost is pretty close to what you can buy it for mail order in small quantities. The corporation buys it at low prices, but then marks it all up again as it passes through the machine. The store might make $.10 on a $.39 part, or $10 on a $39 part.
If you buy a warranty plan or cell phone plan, the profit for the retailer is just about equal to buying $100-300 worth of parts. Which one would you try to sell if you wanted to keep the ship afloat?
I’ll leave you with two more points:
– the average intelligent kid who knows EVERYTHING about the electronics being sold will tend to sell about 30-40% less than the guy who knows very little. The guy who knows everything will spend 20-35 minutes helping a customer figure out which $7 worth of parts he or she needs to do X. The jaeger-meister-shooting blonde with a string of boyfriends and who has trouble with math will sell a cell phone plan, a stereo and some other stuff in the same time. Guess which one a manager needs to keep the lights on?
– Quite often, the guys who know all about electronics will steal as much or more than the guys who don’t. They tend to lift components for pet projects… places like radio shack have loss prevention specialists just like any big retail operation. However, their LP is focused 100% on employees. Lots of inventory goes missing.
Source: Management Consultant
PS – Radio Shack has been close to going down the toilet about once every 15 years. Some of their financial performance is tied to the death of the middle class, and some of it is poor strategy… but the truth is, bricks and mortar is hard. And RS has very expensive bricks and mortar.
Thanks for that lesson in business… I ran one of my own and I agree with everything you said. However, I found out early on that trying to make a huge profit off of *each* item would run off customers… I can’t pay the bills with only 5-6 customers because they would feel like I gouged them on their purchase. And I wasn’t buying my supplies in bulk, lots of times, I was paying full retail and taxes for the parts because I couldn’t afford to keep stuff in stock like that. But RS buys in bulk. They buy the same cheap crap from China everybody else does. Except they put their own branding on it and mark it up 400%. If they would carry stuff people need (I’m not going to beat the dead cellphone/toys/batteries horse here) and stop rebranding everything (which also costs money) they would sell more stuff, meaning they shouldn’t have to charge so much per item.
I have friends who have hobbies like RC aircraft modelling, but can’t do anything at home because of children/spouse..A place where they can go and live out their hobby with like minded people…..
Different membership levels, with discounts on tools and parts, an online ‘registry’ where you can showcase what you are working on (and from which they can extract a parts list so they have it in stock before you realize you need it…).
Involve teachers and parents, create a local ‘Maker Fare’ once a week/month. build communities of hobbyists…Take what element14 is doing right and do it better.
..TL;DR…Create something that ONLY a brick and mortar store can give you…
This was my thought as well. My local Shack has become nothing more than a cellphone and toy store. The parts on hand are limited and rarely needed stuff. Replace half of the shelves full of cheap(???) headphones and put in a rack each of caps, resistors, diodes, etc. Train your staff to have knowledge of the parts. I have lost count of the times I have asked a question at a Shack to get “I don’t know”. Quit trying to be a competitor to Walmart and Verizon stores. Return to being an electronics parts store. maybe cut a deal with some of the big suppliers like Digikey and Mouser. Hell, talk to Sparkfun about becoming a retail outlet…That would kick ass.
I think it is too late for radio shack. The idea of turning radio shack into a hacker-space is a really good idea; but not very profitable at many of their branches out in no where land. The best move for them to still exist is to back up into a hole and address the online community and close their doors of local shops and be a competitive online seller.
It was Allied Electronics at the start. Dad and I kept going in for the tube tester, the parts selection, the solder, the staple supplies needed to keep the hobby going. There were a few parts supplier you could get it from if you waited 1.5 hrs while they picked your parts, but came to you cause could just browse and pick my own much faster. Must have bought enough perf board to roof a house! What are the staples now? Flux, solder paste, tools, components, perf and pc board. Not much on books at all (thank you internet!). I need somewhere to go buy the stuff to build with. It’s supposed to be you! I don’t need toys but always touchy-feely them and see many are broken by others. I don’t need your cheap batteries. I don’t need a keyboard. Don’t need a phone. Don’t need is probably more important than what I do need cause you clutter the store with all I don’t need.
Remember back the the day when you had that 8080 chip on the shelf? I looked at it and drooled for 2 yrs till this thing called wife came along and had me drooling elsewhere. That spurred the need for a GOOD alarm clock and I came back to buy the parts from YOU!
Your problem is simple to solve. Create a Radio Shack Hackerspace and fund their project parts. Keep them making their own boards, then watch what they order. You wanna learn what hackers need, you get hackers to show you!
I came to post a comment about having the Shack implement hackerspaces, but George beat me to it.
+1 for this idea.
More community involvement, demonstrations, classes, learn to solder events, space launch viewings. They may not even have to put a lot of man-hours into it: have the community organize itself in each local store or something.
If Radio Shack turned into a chain of hackerspaces, I would probably go there from opening till closing multiple times a week. I live too far out in the middle of nowhere for there to be hackerspaces.
If Radio Shack can “build a hacker space” to shore up its finances, then so can Target, Best Buy, or the local grocery store.
I don’t think Radio Shack has the expertise to do hacker spaces – they’re a retailer much like Target or Best Buy. They minimally cater to hackers – the fact that they are even associated with the maker community is due to the dearth of brick and mortar Maker-focused retail outlets, not the result of their maker creds.
The maker community MIGHT be big enough to sustain a small number of B&M stores. But it won’t save the majority of Radio Shack stores. They’d still need to close lots of stores. And they’re still lacking the expertise to run hacker spaces.
The only thing in their favor is the (somewhat superficial) impression of their hacker-tise.
I love my local, overpriced, under-supplied Radio Shacks (there are three of them, two of which are within a quarter mile of each other). Anytime I want something immediately, and don’t mind paying a premium for it, that’s where I go. However, the operative word is “want.” I need gifts for the kids, need food, need plastic baggies, want caps, want LEDs, want resistors. Hacking is magical, can be a life-style, and is – in most of the first world – completely superfluous. I go to Target weekly; I go to Radio Shack every few months. The only way that kind of model can succeed is if it’s teamed up with something else. I could see a Radio Shack section of Toys R’ Us or Best Buy doing well. Free-standing stores sitting on ever-more-expensive real-estate, selling $2 discrete components? Sadly, no.
They should get into retailing 3D printers and supplies. Also try to team up with Makezine and /or makerbot, sparkfun, adafruit, to be a storefront for those lines. Workshops might help – teach children to hack, engage the community. It’s not just about products – it’s about generating culture.
+1 Teaming up with those online suppliers would allow them to have pricing agreements that let store prices remain competitive (benefit for radioshack) as well as having a physical retail presence for all those electronic goodies (benefit for Sparkfun, adafruit, jameco etc)
its a win-win
Sparkfun, Adafruit, and others would benefit from the additional volume of sales and prices will go down.
The store is also a polling station where actual customers would tell you what they need, giving feedback for new products.
Sell kits and in-store training to put them together (ala Home Depot). The kits should only be a BOM with parts available in RS.
To some extent they have…not sure about adafruit, but they carry make and sparkfun components, and I might be wrong but I thought I read somewhere that they carry makerbot as well.
The hackerspace idea is probably closest to what hey meant to me when I was a youngin’. A place where I could go and ask questions and get real, useful answers. They would just have to careful not to hire ‘apple genius’s’ type of people. you lots of big words and acronyms but devoid of useful help.
I know it would help me complete some of my ideas easier, don’t have the space or time to invest in a full workshop, but if I could use one for reasonable prices, I probably wouldn’t hesitate.
Appoint Lady Ada (Adafruit) as CEO, and give her carte-blanch control.
She has exactly the vision needed and understands both the market and how to teach customers to use the products.
Neither smart phones or game consoles would be viable without subsidies from the manufacturer. These companies market services and accessories to make a profit, while selling the main product at a loss. Radioshack could continue to pander the hackers by subsidising 3D printers or Raspberry PI’s, requiring customers to return for raw materials or shields and accessories.
For them to survive they need to provide the following:
1) Knowledge: They would need to host office hours for local experts willing to answer electronics questions.
2) Equipment: To get people into the store they would need o-scopes, SMT toaster overs, whatever and let people pay to use them. They would probably need the aforementioned experts to help out.
If they provide these things then I am perfectly OK with buying their overpriced parts.
I agree, without knowledgeable staff they will continue to sink like a rock. When I go to the one local store that stocks parts and someone asks if they can help me, I name a part and they just wave in the direction of the bins because they have no clue what I am talking about. Also, 9 times out of 10 they don’t have the connector, fuse, capacitor, etc. that I need.
+1 on better selection of components and more knowledgable staff. One of the Shacks near me seem to have employees of decent knowledge, but more certainly wouldn’t hurt. It would also be of a benefit for younger people, such as myself, that need a job, relevant job experience, and want to work in an environment that would relate to their interests.
I have to admit, I’ve become so used to the fact that the sales guy in RS doesn’t know anything about electronics or what I’m looking for that I no longer answer them when they ask if they can help me. The one single RS store that I go into knows that it’s useless to even ask and they leave me alone. If I go into any other store, I’m constantly assaulted by people wanting to help me…. when they can’t. It’s awfully hard to calculate power, current, or any other basic electrical quantity in your head when you’re constantly being interrupted. Maybe it’s me, but I don’t go to the store to be social, but instead I usually have a problem that I need to solve.
The problem with the over helpful employee doesn’t come from the store – it’s from corporate management. I’ve had conversations about it with some of the store owners and they say they’re not to blame. This is also true of the ridiculous amount of information that you sometimes get asked for at checkout. Fortunately, the checkout process seems to have calmed down a bit in the past few years as I can’t recall having to give them my zip code, phone number, address, and social security of my first born in recent times. ;-)
The RS that inspired me and my brother to actually go into electronics had sales people that knew electronics well and could help figure out solutions when the store didn’t carry the part you needed. That was a long time ago.
I don’t know if they can turn this around. The problems have been so severe for long enough that it will be very hard to convince customers that they’re serious.
This! They could make decent money if they were a for profit maker/hackerspace. Unfortunately I would push to say most of their employees are probably too incompetent as this point, since they have been geared more towards selling cell phones than transistors.
I agree. Changing some of the stores into hackerspace-like environments would be great, but they would definitely need to train up their staff some more.
I honestly don’t think it can be saved. the mall stores are a waste of money, eliminate those. I find 4 smaller stores in town useless, I would rather see one large store that actually carried most of the catalog.
90% of what I buy in small parts or hacking supplies is online as I get far better prices even with shipping and far more selection. My last 5 cellphones I bought online as it was a far better deal than RadioShack could ever give me, in fact I am not sure who radioshack sells cellphones to…
many times when I walk into a radioshack I leave empty handed because what I want is not there. When I do buy something it’s usually a clearance arduino shield or something else heavily discounted.
Older, pre-internet people, don’t trust buying over the internet, and more importantly have a need to to talk to some one and ask questions and expect reasonable (even if not always correct) answers. They don’t want to decipher acronyms, they want someone to explain what it means TO them.
I know this because if I was born 5- 10 years earlier I’d be part of that crowd. and unbeknownst to most, every thing is not better when bought online. I had a issue with a cell phone charger I bought online, this was for my treo a some years back. The one I received online was a modified version that didn’t fit my older model, even the SKU’s were exactly the same. I returned the one I bought online because it wouldn’t work went to a radio shack, and the guy actually searched through his stock to find the earlier version for me, the online source wouldn’t have done that.This particular experience (way few and far between)was what I remembered of radio shack when I was teen…
Older people are a dying breed, don’t you know?
Start selling popular cellphone/tablet repair parts and provide repair services.
I think that the Shack has actually been worth visiting recently. While they are extremely expensive for things like resistors, LEDs and the like, they are the only place that you can get such an item w/o waiting for delivery. Also, they occasionally have spectacular bargains. Bargain items that I have purchased in the last few minths include a Panavise, a Propeller development board, a kit of assorted LEDs, a number of Seed Studio Arduino breadboards, a Kg or modeling plastic (polycaprolactone), a number of webcams etc. The total is in the hundreds of $s.
And I have purchased maybe a few hunderd $s worth of “overpriced” components. Sometimes you just need to have an op-amp or whatever on short notice. The parts were pricey, but I was glad to pay because I needed them.
So I am glad to see the Shack emerge from its “me too cell phone” stupor of recent years — and I hope it survives.
I have seen some amazing deals also.. I have about 10+ stores in 15 miles of where I live and each of them have deals of their own.. Every now and then I make a day trip and drive to each of them to survey the deals.. lol.. I think if they had knowledgeable people it would help their sales.. I remember friends working there several years back and they had to be knowledgeable in electronics, now they only need to ask if you need batteries..
I agree it is hard to let the shack go. But it seems that might be. I must admit I go online before I go there. I will give them another try,
I go to Radio Shack for emergencies and then realize that they don’t even carry the part that I need.
Yeah. It’s very simple actually – they don’t carry enough stuff for the niche and what they do have is WAY overpriced. I mean really, if I need something right away and it’s more than a single relay or a transistor, I would go to Fry’s which is 20 miles farther from me than Shack. If it can wait of course I’ll shop online.
And when you don’t provide what your customers want and you charge more than everyone else – it’s a certain death for the business.
So either change that, or may be change the business model completely (like others proposed)
Maybe hackerspace&shop combo?
You pay for hackerspace membership and you are provided with tools and space.
Forgot to buy few capactitors that you need to finish your project? go to the counter and get some right away.
Uhh, how would this work in most Radio Shack settings? They pay thousands in rent per month per store as it is to just have a few hundred to a low thousandish square feet in a retail location. Not even sure zoning laws would allow for this, not to mention the implausibility of converting stores. The rent alone would make this nearly impossible. Maker spaces don’t sell items on a per sq ft basis anywhere near as much as a retail store.
And then there is insurance, that would sky rocket.
maker spaces aren’t in the business of selling things….
but maybe if they look at the Staple’s/Kinko’s model. Most business owner’s I know have printers, etc. yet many still send jobs to Staple’s/Kinko’s for bigger jobs, etc. It could work….
RadioShack is trapped. Its creditors won’t let it close the unprofitable stores it needs to close to survive.
A chapter 11 would fix that. Still, they’d still be the crappy store that we’ve all come to hate.
I often buy things from Adafruit, even though usually I can get the same thing for less than half the price if I just ordered it from China. With the power of bulk buying, Radio Shack could be a local business that could source some great components. Something major that grinds my gears about Adafruit is their screen prices. One screen that sells for 20 dollars on their site can be had for around 8 dollars in single quantities from China. I can’t justify the upcharge there, especially when I know it’s the exact same thing. However, if I could nip off down the road and pay fifteen for it and have it in hand immediately, that would be a game changer.
I agree the phone and tablet market is something they need to give up on. Back in the day, I could walk into Radio Shack with a schematic in hand and ask for a cheaper part to substitute for some black box and I would get good answers. These days if you walk in, they try to sell you a phone. I already have a phone. And the uneducated masses aren’t the type to be in Radio Shack to start with, so it is just fail all around. I think there should be at least one person on shift at all times who can solder or knows how to use an oscilloscope. I don’t give a sh!t if you can activate my phone, as it turns out, I know what an ESN and MIN number are and I’m capable of using BitPIM. If I wanted to be looked at like an idiot when talking about an astable multivibrator, I would go to Best Buy.
Workshops: Idk if they have the facilities, but it would be awesome if once a month or so I could go to Radio Shack and pay 20 dollars and walk out an hour later with some kit in hand. Especially for towns that don’t have a Maker/Hackerspace, this could be another game changer.
That’s been my big problem with RS. For some parts, I can go on Amazon and pick a random supplier from Asia and get parts really cheap after a month or so (or Newark, Digikey, Mouser, etc), or I can go to Sparkfun or Adafruit and get the part in a week for a relatively small markup (on most parts). If I go to RS, I see the same part at a 10x to 50x higher price from what other retailers price them at (about 100x higher, or more, than the bulk suppliers!). The only time it makes sense for me to buy anything is if I really need it FAST (if the parts aren’t even available on Amazon Prime) or if it is on severe markdown (picked up a Propeller devboard for under $10 one day, RFID tags and reader for $5, etc).
Yeah, occasionally I stop in and pick up something that’s on severe mark down and buy some toys (my dad loves nanobug-like bristle bots, we have battles on family holidays) or batteries or something else that grab my attention. But routers, external harddrives, even speakers are absurdly over-priced no-name POS that even the BestBuy a block away beats on price and convenience. When a set of no-name speakers cost as much as Harmon-Kardon speakers at BB, how can they wonder why they are losing money? They’ve somehow convinced themselves that those spontaneous purchases, which only happen when customers buy something else, are what they should be focusing on and dedicating store space to. The opposite would work better, focus on what the customer wants and can get at a fair price, and dedicated a little space (and lots of stock) to the high-markup spontaneous purchases. Sure, it bothers the beancounters who think “product X makes 90% of our profit, we should stock 90% of product X” instead of “products Y, Z, and W are in most of our sales while product X is most of our profit…we should get more people to buy Y,Z,&W so they’ll buy more X too!”
Woa, so you mean RS should not sell carpet? Carpet has a high markup
I really don’t believe many hackers have held Radio Shack “near and dear to our hearts” since the 1980s, when they actually had a pretty comprehensive selection of the (then) available electronic components on the market.
As stated get rid of the cell phones/tablets and mainstream consumer electronics, compete more closely with jameco and the like, and start carrying Sparkfun products, have a better more usable website and promote site to store shipping, the automotive suppliers will move products between stores quickly so that you can get what you want reasonably fast. Potentially have classes, home depot can do it, or sponsor high school projects.
I hate having to go to Radio Shack because of the prices, but often find my self there because they are so convenient, even though my part search is usually in vain.
Why not try to sell the stores off as franchises for the cost of closing + inventory ( if that is actually a bargain), these stores would presumably be poor performers. See which ones turn around, if they do, pay attention and apply what works.
That is actually a great idea! I wonder if it could work?
Sort of what IBM did in the early ’90’s, They spun off a bunch of their divisions along with (older) employees so they could die without making it look like IBM was dying. But then some of those divisions turned around and IBM bought them back!
The brick and mortar model is hard to maintain.
I would suggest instead of telling cashiers to push batteries people don’t need with suggestive selling (that has the effect of people realizing they bought something they did not need since to be nice, or because a suggestive selling can often work to get people in the moment to buy something) (note the grocery store I worked for did the same thing, I refused to push products… I don’t work there anymore, but saw so much loss of respect from customers when a ‘conversation’ was ended by the cashier pushing an item, and the friendliness was turned into a customer feeling bad about saying no to a checker trying to push crap they don’t need, or yes and realizing they were had when they got home.)
Instead of that, have a guy that knows the products, including electronics. So that if I go into radioshack, he can tell me the difference between some parts, or advantages, even a basic level of knowledge that can answer many of the questions would make a difference. Then have an ability for anything that is not in stock, to be ‘ordered’ and directly shipped to someones house through a Radio Shack purchase point (like online)
The only way brick and mortar can stay competitive is that you have a person there, unlike online, and if that person is not turning off customers with that subconscious attack of ‘suggestive selling’, mandated and for the same item for everyone’ your going to not inspire support using that method. It actually pisses me off, I know about the technique, and still have to focus to say no sometimes in that moment of the mind getting ready to buy some stuff.
If they actually know the items, and can suggest what works best or better, and then can fill the need for larger selection it might work out better.
Although that is tough, since that takes more then minimum wage. However when minimum wage goes up, there will be more qualified people that can do that work.
I knew a guy that used to run a Radio Shack, he knew his stuff, he ended up at a grocery store stocking shelves when they replaced him with minimum wage labor. And I understand labor is the first place people cut.
It should be noted, Having brick and mortar stores is actually a very important defense for society against tyranny, since buying online, without a store competitor, can go corrupt with no other source of information but the one Internet Channel that everything goes through. Radio Shack staying open protects the entire electronics field from ‘control programs’ that intercept some Internet ordering systems, or intercept some mail delivered to some people.
“Radio Shack staying open protects the entire electronics field from ‘control programs’ that intercept some Internet ordering systems, or intercept some mail delivered to some people.”
This is complete nonsense.
But then, we now know the NSA has implanted chips in routers by intercepting them. The line for nonsense conspiracy theories has shifted a lot in the last years.
Take the component chest/tools/etc from the back corner, stuff them into a vending machine, and put it in a vestibule. I doubt they can afford to hire knowledgeable staff, so you might as well eliminate them and the rest of the building.
I’ve been thinking that for years. You could have a machine that cut tapes of passive components (through-hole and maybe 1210 components) and maybe some transistors that are still sold on paper strips. A machine like that could be made to be fairly compact and could have a large inventory. Radio Shack could have a “recipie book” near the machine that suggested parts for a particular project. Type in a project code and swipe your credit card and all of the parts for that project as well as a printout of the project’s instructions would come out the chute in a plastic bag. You could instantly know if they have a 10K 1/4 watt resistor in stock without searching through drawers. Radio Shack could also gain a few sales because the machine would actually know its stock. I’ve gone into Radio Shack in the past only to have a pesky salesperson ask me what I was looking for. When I told them, they often just look at the same places that I have been looking or just tell me that they don’t have anything like that (even though they do).
The machine would require no labor and would be able to keep track of its inventory. It could send out an e-mail periodically to Radio Shack informing them of the stock levels for everything inside of it.
Also, I agree with a previous commenter. Cell phone sales is a lousy business to be in these days. The market is saturated with inexpensive options. Cell phone repair might be a good business though. Nearly every 20-something that I see has a smart phone with a cracked screen.
A public vending machine would be handy for those 2am projects that need parts when all stores are closed.
I was thinking the same thing, though they could also create several different versions of the vending machine.
The basic version you could just about put everywhere (mall, strip mall, drug store, grocery, one of those crafts stores, etc) that could sale basic parts and tools.
Different versions might be custom built for different locations to either hold a larger number or variety of parts/tools. The example I have in mind is some of the craft stores I’ve seen around here that could have had two levels but instead they went with a one-level with a very high ceiling.
Or how about small trucks (like UPS delivery trucks) that are basically traveling vending machines visiting certain places and or events (fairs, flea markets, festivals, conventions, car shows, Ham Radio or Maker gatherings, etc, etc).
Radio Shack is out of money. How are they going to invest in thousands of vending machines?
Short answer? They cant (but perhaps a merging of the franchising idea with the vending machine idea…..)
Any change worth making to the RS stores will involve alot of spending, especially if it involves more thoroughly retraining their employees, and they just don’t have the money for that.
Their best bet is to either find someone who’s willing to invest in them or to buy em out.
In the meantime they might want to try reaching out to the tinkerers out there, perhaps find some people willing to host workshops in stores to get people (especially kids) interested in electronics.
I wonder if the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America would be interested in that?
For now all we can do is consider idea’s that either require little or no money to implement on RS’s part.
Agreed! Anything worthwhile in a Radio Shack could be sold from a vending machine. I was thinking of opening a brick and mortar electrical component shop that really made it’s money from classes and workshops just down the way from a Radio Shack. I thought a pick-and-drop vending machine could cover an entire wall with card-mounted components, and customers could walk up outside after hours and use their credit card to buy parts, which the machine would pick and drop through a hole in the glass. I have always thought that Digikey should allow people to build a bill of materials and give it a unique number so that they could post the instructions to the project online and just give the BOM number and people could go to Digikey and enter that number and they would charge it and ship it to you, no hassle. Radio Shack could do that with vending machines.
mouser used to let you save BOMs, but I don’t think they were public. But once you got the BOM from their catalog you could copy and paste it easy enough
Last I had checked, you could do exactly that on Digikey by creating an account. You could even share the bom link and others can place an order with a couple of clicks. I had used it on a project I did years ago.
Did they get rid of that?
That’s genius actually. I’d buy stuff from that model. I don’t care if it’s a little overpriced. If I need it now, I will buy it there.
I will add an obvious thing: ACCURATE inventory. If I can go online and look up a part and reserve it prior to driving down there, that would be awesome.
Stop selling cellphones and just focus on electronics. Be a hobby shop and stop trying to compete with big named stores. Specialize. We always need a physical store because sometimes you just need that part right now to fix or make, whatever your working, work
hobby shop… We have a couple of hobby shops in town (100,000+ people) and one Radio Shack. The hobby shops already sell/inventory replacement parts for the RC hobbyists and model railroaders, they could dedicate a corner for Radio Shack components.
While the Shack started carrying our kind of stuff they still lack people knowledgeable enough to even know what ti do with it. I’ve gone in and gotten a few shields and whatnot from my local one but NOT ONCE has anyone behind the counter even known what I was buying! I had to explain it to them while they were trying to shove a cell phone down my throat. -_-
This is also the case with the ones near me. They both have fairly sizable areas dedicated to DIY electronics (the usual cabinets filled with 555s and some Sparkfun stuff), but an utterly clueless staff that does not care. And the whole store looks like it’s in a state of disarray.
Frankly, the local managers around here all need to take a quick trip to the MicroCenter in Cambridge and take some notes.
Reinventing Radio Shack as a quasi hackerspace is an interesting idea… And a tough sell to investors.
I just don’t think the demographics are there for customers needing reflow ovens. Also, if the shack is running low on capital, they probably don’t have the cash necessary to invest in the rebranding / tools / merchandise / components to reinvent themselves.
The news isn’t all bad – maybe there is hope for a more hacker friendly chain of stores to emerge. Are there are any such examples yet (e.g. in the larger metro areas)?
Microcenter has this stuff, and had a kid there trying to answer questions. He did poorly even finding items, but was genuinely interested and trying. He will learn eventually.
I have a Microcenter locally, near Philadelphia. They carry Sparkfun stuff. It is actually growing, while their book selection is dwindling……
As for the vending machine idea, Best Buy has vending machines in the Philly Airport….
Almost across the hallway from our local Radio Shack (mall store) is a vending machine that sells Apple stuff (iPods, ear buds, adapters, etc.)
Very simple. Return to your roots. Remember when a sales associate could thrive at Radioshack without any understanding of 6 or 7 different companies hourly specials on cell phone plans? Walk into ANY Radioshack and ask a day 1 question about a shield. No one there knows a thing about it, why? Because the people who worked there that know this stuff last an average of 6 months to a year and get pushed out because they didnt sell enough cell phones. The turnover at radioshack (for good sales / management even) is crazy. Stop teaching your associates not to value repeat customers for parts and expertise. Take phones out of the stores completely and goto kiosk as was considered before. Re-hire all the people who knew the parts drawers, CB, HAM, Arduino, electronics, RC and pay those people well enough to keep them. A shoe company can do a better job selling arduino shields than you because your turn over is so fast atleast they would eventually learn from digging up the answers.
STOP THINKING WHAT CAN WE PUT IN THE STORE TO SELL PHONES. Start having people to sell the things we want effectively.
I worked for Radio Shack for a couple of years when they were moving away from parts and trying to be BestBuy and Cellphone Shack. I told people I knew then that it would not be long before they went out of business. When you stop catering to your main audience there is an issue.
The only reason they were ever able to sell cell phones is because their parts brought people in. Without anything to bring people in you don’t have anyone to market cellphones to.
yeah and back then they came in suitcases and were noval . Now phones are more a nuisance than a hip new tech. I sold those suitcase “mobile” phones at radioshack hehe.
A RadFabLabShack ?
(I should never be put in charge of branding for anything ever)
It’s sad, but I don’t see how they can do it. Here in the Phoenix Metro area there are over 40 Radio Shack stores. Even if every hacker/maker in the area started shopping at RS stores I can’t imagine that would be enough volume to keep 5 stores going, much less 40. I’ve been a fan and customer for over 40 years so I don’t take this lightly, but I don’t see a way out. The hacker/maker community is large and growing, but I don’t think they can support the massive costs of that much real estate, staff, and corporate infrastructure.
It does, however, make me fantasize about what a single hacker/maker super-store would look like, and wonder if even that could survive.
Agreed its too far gone and others stepped up to further fragment the potential audience but it could mebe try to work if they went more the likes of amazon being all mail order and super fast shipping.
It would look like fry’s with a hackerspace in one corner
They need to hire staff that knows what they’re talking about. I’m not a “frequent hacker” by any means, but I’ve had to chase down the odd capaciter or adapter cable in the past – I have not been impressed by the technical ability of the staff, that seems to know more about cell phones than any other technology. And their cell phone knowledge leaves quite a bit to be desired.
I’m more than happy to pay extra for what I need (and have a hard time finding), but I have a hard time justifying that when the clerk is less knowledgeable about technology than the person taking my McDonald’s order is about farming.
Get rid of portable consumer electronics entirely.
Move to the model of selling to hobbyists and DIYers. For the hobbyists, the usual Sparkfun/Adafruit product lineup. For DIY, focus on home automation and integrated electronic entertainment: flush-mount speakers for home installation, low-voltage wiring supplies, projection screen materials, and so on. I personally *would* pay extra for a local store that catered to these needs – I actually already check if they have what I want before going to online retailers, and I’ve only used Sparkfun/Adafruit/Amazon if Radioshack either doesn’t have what I want, or only at ~300% higher price or worse.
Where the local market won’t support a store on these two markets, cut losses. Having 2000 or even 500 stores that do well would be better than letting everything collapse.
This is a good point, radioshack led the way with home automation. My house is still dumber than my watch at this point so there is still a market for the right stuff.
What they need to do is to close some of their higher rent areas. I’m sure they’re getting killed on rents here in new york (any storefront on 42nd street has got to be $$$$)
I would certainly head to the Shack for actual electronic components. If I could get a Pi or Arduino at my local shop, it would certainly make a big difference in the projects I decide to work on. Currently there is only a one local shop in CT that sells items that your average hardware hacker/maker needs. Granted the collection is huge, but you may have to drive a bit to get there depending on where you live. So having Radio Shack carry more of the popular items would make things much more convenient.
Also maybe suggest to them to get in touch with local maker/hacker spaces in the area. Partner with them to spread the word to those interested in making stuff. The Shack recommends to customers that they check out said hacker space, and the Space sends members there to buy stuff, or the space itself becomes a regular customer. Radio Shack could essentially build new customers in association with local spaces.
Out of curiosity, what is this local shop you speak of? I also live in CT, but have never heard of this place. Sounds very interesting.
Last time I walked into one I asked *if they knew* about a memory card recovery service somewhere. The guy told me he could sell me a brand new SD card. When I said “you don’t understand”, he promptly pushed a panic button and two people kicked me out of the store. I’m kidding, but you get the idea. On the other hand, I did come out with a shiny set of breadboard wires, a stack of prototyping copper boards and some switches, some batteries and happy to see that sort of merchandise in there. Today I buy everything from China for a dollar although I get to wait 3 months. RS has no way to compete with that unless they have a full stock of electronics plus a 3D printing service and a repair service for those who believe in recycling but can’t fix their own stuff.
unless they stop hard-selling phones and crap (that they don’t even understand), and start selling parts, I say “RS is not worth saving”.
They’re not gonna be a destination without some expertise behind the counter. Last time I had to visit a Shack, there was another customer talking to the clerk:
Customer: “My husband asked me to swing by here and pick up some “tuner cleaner”. Where is it, please?”
Clerk: “Tuner cleaner? What is that? I’ve never heard of that, I don’t think we carry that.”
(Customer turns to leave.)
Me: “It’s right here, it’s for cleaning corroded switch contacts. It’s called tuner cleaner because, back when TVs had dials, those dials had hundreds of switch contacts and were notoriously prone to oxidation.”
Customer: “Thanks! Hey, you’ve got questions, this random guy’s got answers!”
This is basically guaranteed because they don’t require any technical knowledge of their clerks anymore, just a relentless drive to sell cellphones into an already-saturated market. (Memorandum: Everyone already has a cellphone, this business model has outlived its usefulness. Kill it immediately.) That’s what’s driven them to irrelevance — it’s not just that techies have learned to go online to get things, it’s that we actively avoid going to the Shack. I’ve delayed projects while waiting for parts to ship, rather than go spend a few bucks on parts, not because I hate paying retail (hey, shelf space is valuable, I understand that), but because I loathe the experience of interacting with their pushy/desperate cellphone droids.
How to turn this around? Hey, jump on the 3d-printing craze. It seems set to continue accelerating, even as some of us are bored with it, the general public is still wowed by the whole thing. Get a TAZ in the store window printing all day every day, budget a few bucks a day for plastic, and let it mesmerize people. The machines will sell like hotcakes. A fast extruder might move 80-100 grams per hour, so printing for 12 hours would move roughly a kilogram of plastic per day. That’s maybe $20 in material, per day. No-brainer.
They would have to, of course, hire people who know how to fly a 3d printer. Every local reprap user group is crawling with these, mind you, and almost all of ’em have more technical experience than every other person on the store’s staff combined. Find the one who’s most personable (also gotta be helpful and do sales, mind you) and bring ’em in.
The side-effect of having a 3d-printing expert in the store is that they’ll gain some actual technical knowledge in the store too. Imagine that.
With the 3D printer idea, even add a service that customers can submit things to be printed on your machine. Even if you spend most of the time printing demo stuff, you’ll recoup costs from the people that just need a one-off print that’s going to take a few hours and they don’t want to run it themselves. Would be great to have this able to be submitted online, and say an order submitted by noon is ready when the store opens the next day for most prints. They could even shift the jobs to other local stores as needed. But they gotta have someone with the expertise available.
My radioshack sells makerbots and has one running constantly printing. It’s been there for at least 2 months now.
And by the time it finishes what it is printing, people won’t remember what they wanted printed in the first place! B^)
I think the best thing they can do is convert some of their larger stores into Hacker Spaces. Keep commonly used parts (stocking parts from the Open Parts Library would be a great start and no, I don’t want to have to pay for the whole library as a package when I only need some parts) and tools on hand and available for purchase. They should also stock some common kits and allow one to assemble them in the hacker space. Lastly, having experts available to assist beginners would be great. In fact, I’m sure that there would be people that would happily volunteer (eg. college students) to help out in this capacity.
Keep, in stock, common and useful parts and tools and sell everything else online. Pricing would also be key. It would make sense to charge for the convenience of buying in the store and using the space, but not charge the premium for online purchases.
Personally, if I was able to purchase custom PCBs and parts for a project, have them delivered to a store and assemble them on pickup in a space in the store, I’d be more than happy to pay for such convenience.
To do this successfully they may need to close stores. I would much rather they close a bunch of their smaller satellite stores and have one large space in every major area (ie. near colleges).
Radio Shack is doomed and that is sad. I loved going to Radio Shack as a kid. My first electronics kit came from there, but I cannot find a single reason to go there anymore. My last trip was for a simple switch. They did not have what I needed, so I grabbed the next closest item, which they only had two of and they cost $5 each.
The morons in charged focused on batteries, cellphones and other trinkets, when they should have stayed true to their roots. (When was the last time Radio Shack sold a ham radio?) Now they are reaping what they sowed.
One of the last independent Radio Shacks closed its doors at the end of last month. I know one of the former owners. The audio adapter #274-367 they had to sell me for 4.99+tax to cover their costs from Radio Shack was simultaneously on sale on their corporate online presence for EIGHTEEN CENTS.–I didn’t return it. I viewed it as a gratuity to a dying way of life. I saved the printout with my receipt. They are, of course, even cheaper directly from an overseas address of their supplier. If it isn’t bad enough you can get your item through the mail for four percent of the brick and mortar price, it is RatShack main screwing over their stores. And they reserve several vicious kicks for the independents that don’t have to toe the O&O line. I look back on the 33 year run of our local store with fondness and sadness.
I agree, AdaFruit, 3D printing, all the things that are the buzzwords now can save them, but if they can’t shut down unprofitable locations, they’re doomed.
I work just a few minutes away from Sparkfun which means that I can opt for the “pick up” option when I purchase items through them. This means I have almost no need to visit a Radio Shack to purchase anything. I personally think Sparkfun should work out a deal with Radio Shack making the Shack a main distributor of Sparkfun items if not buy Radio Shack outright. Radio Shack could also start providing 3D printing services, PCB etching for next-day pickup, or, like others have stated, a hackerspace-like facility where you could pay a monthly fee or pay by the hour.
One thing is for sure, they need to have more intelligible people operating their stores. It’s quite sad when you as a customer end up pointing another customer in the right direction because the Radio Shack employee just can’t grasp what the customer is asking for. However, if they employee’s aren’t paid well enough then there is no incentive for knowledgeable people to seek employment at Radio Shack.
I loved visiting Radio Shack when I was a kid to get various parts for my electronic projects and asking the guys working there for ideas on how to go about a project. However, I feel like they’ve shifted towards being Best Buy’s little brother and are slowly choking out the hacker-friendly environment.
I don’t think anyone should buy out Radio Shack until RS goes chapter 11. That’s probably the only way to close the unprofitable locations and shift focus back to hobbyists.
With the way the company has been mismanaged for decades now, I’m amazed that it’s lasted this long. I’m also surprised that they haven’t sued the US government for allowing registered trademark owners to display the capital-R-in-a-circle logo.
I’m putting my two cents voice in too. Radio Shack started to decline when it decided to just be place for people to get cell phones and contracts. I went into RS a few months ago to get a CB radio antenna mount… You should know where I’m going with that story.. “RADIO” shack doesn’t carry common radio parts that you can find at a truck stop for a few bucks. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars at radio shack on Arduino kits, resistor packs, soldering irons, LEDs, Parallax sensors, all kinds of goodies and that’s awesome, but I have two cars with CB radios and I’ve had to get almost all my parts from Amazon or truck stops… I’ve easily spent double the amount of money on CB parts rather than electronics.
Radio shack needs to go back to being a hobby radio and electronics shop. Probably would be ok if they kept the mall outlet stores as strictly cell phone and converted the real stores back to hobby shops. Separate the two and hire knowledgeable employees.
There are roughly 70 stores in the great Houston metropolitan area. Then, there’s 1 shop called Electronic Parts Outlet ( http://www.epohouston.com/ ). EPO is the hacker/builder’s dream store and have been around since 1985. Given the choice, I’d drive to EPO when looking for parts, but there are several Radio Shacks between me and their location. Sadly, Radio Shack rarely has what I’m looking for, or will only carry the large “starter kits” of things, like the Raspberry Pi. A $35 computer, for $130 with a few extra wires and a laser cut case.
Much as others have mentioned, as soon as I walk into the store, some high school kid starts pushing cell phones or batteries at me. Or when checking out the few times I’ve bought an Arduino shield or some components, they ask accusingly “what are you going to do with this stuff?”
It’s just an uncomfortable experience from entrance to exit and sad that Radio Shack has become a husk of what it once was. So, what could they do differently? Knowledgeable staff would be a huge help. Secondly, having more of the online catalog available in the store would be a nice addition. Less smaller stores and having a few larger ones could help with having the space for the catalog, plus offering workshops or classes like Hobby Lobby and Michael’s do for the crafters would benefit the community and foster the maker/hacker spirit. I don’t know if Radio Shack needs to become hackerspaces, those are usually more community-focused as opposed to retail stores, but becoming a place that could work with the local hackerspaces would be a great move for them.
From the files of don’t ask questions that you really do not want to know the answer to.
RS sales staffer: What are you going to do with this stuff?
Me: Just watch the news and soon you will see how I’ve dealt a blow to your Yankee imperialist capitalistic society. Muwahahaha!
I too have fond memories from when I was younger, the store in the local mall used to have a huge cardboard box marked “As Is” that was stuffed full of junk returns and defective items, a 12 y/o hacker’s dream box. Nowadays, I try to remember to put on my, “No, I don’t want any damn batteries!” shirt before heading to The Shack. I normally get half-way friendly service from the clerks, but the damn battery hocking drives me crazy. I don’t see a way for them to survive, but I’ll put up with them while they’re still around. I’m just waiting for a store like EPO somewhere even remotely close to my hometown. I’d drive an hour for something like that (and make it worth my drive while I was there).
I think it’s too late for just ditching cell-phones and batteries. They’re going to have to come up with something genius to stick around
Surely there’s no one watching these comments anymore, but just in case…
What most have proposed here, in some fashion or another, is for RS to go all-out hacker/geek friendly and get back to “their roots”, but one thing Radio Shack has going for it that those kinds of places don’t is that normal people will go in the store. If that changes, I think it’s really all over for them.
Radio Shack is the perfect place to introduce “normal” people to the wonderful world of electronics and hacking. These days, the field is more accessible to them than ever, but you gotta get their attention long enough to show them. Flashing LEDs, easy to build project kits with prominent, interactive displays and demos, have someone who does free classes and “make” sessions where he/she teaches and makes something right in the store, more arduinos/shields/sensors, more LEDs.
Show someone how easy it is to connect an RGB strip to an arduino and control it with their phone, let them play with it right there in the store, and then sell them the kit to reproduce it back at home for their living room, deck, dorm room, or whatever… and then stock all of the individual components I would need to build it w/o the arduino and shields.
So, Radio Shack, my take? Take -real- electronics mainstream. Instead of just going “back to your roots”, show the rest of the world how cool your roots actually are.
Sadly, that won’t happen. They’ve made their bed, they want the fast money of the commission on a cellular activation. True, there may be an insane markup on resistors, but they would have to pay to retrain their staff. Sure the average HaD reader could probably manager a Radio Shack, but they don’t want to pay us for our knowledge, they want to pay commission on cellular activations.
I fear you’re right on the money, Steven.
Although, they wouldn’t necessarily need new or differently trained staff… In most towns, I bet they could find volunteers at local makerspaces or colleges to come in to do classes and “make” sessions for free. But either way, I still think you’re right.
Radio shack was a hobby store when it was profitable…
For most Radio was a hobby, then RC cars/planes were a Hobby, and computers were a hobby, then computers went main stream, and radio shack missed the boat… they decided to not miss the boat on cell phones (basically consumer radios) going main stream, they did o.k. in that space for a little while, but they can’t compete with the carriers having their own stores.
To get back to their roots they don’t need to be a maker/hacker space, they need to be a hobby shop, and I don’t think they should turn into a hacker space, but they should encourage hacker spaces to open in the area (sponsoring them? and advertising their existence in the store?).
Also as a hobby shop they might want to consider expanding beyond just Electronics and into a larger scale of hobbies, they did RC stuff for a while, they bring that back, perhaps model rockets as well, I’m sure there are other markets out there for them to be selling to beyond just the electronics geeks.
Odd Ive never realized till now it was a hobby shop. Probably why I loved that job (when i was able to dodge the cell phones by wowing DM’s by selling them things in their own stores lol)
Umm – Radio Shack didn’t “miss the boat” with computers – in fact, they were one of the first places you could buy a complete mass-produced computer system – the TRS-80 Model 1 – back in 1977 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRS-80); this wasn’t long after the likes of the Altair and other S-100 bus computers for hobbyists came on the scene.
They continued serving that market for about 15 years or so – they were a great place to go pick up a nice home computer or business machine, along with printers, plotters, and other accessories for those machines. Ultimately, though, they couldn’t compete with the relentless onslaught of the commodity PC…
Radio Shack remained relevant to the home computer market all the way up to the early 1990s, when they killed off the Color Computer 3 and most of the other “Tandy Originals” – and started to focus more on re-badged and re-branded commodity PCs (they had been a seller of store-brand PCs of their own design long before then). That was also close to the time they started to get into cell phones and away from hobbyist and repair parts.
That didn’t save them, though – they, and most of the other “home computer” manufacturers (with one big exception, who somehow managed to survive and become a powerhouse with us still) died all at about the same time, before the mid-1990s – names like Commodore, Atari, Texas Instruments, among others.
Just let them die. Not only are they so far from their ham/hacker roots that they can never find their way back, but society has changed to the point where that clientele is no longer capable of supporting them. Hackers/builders are in short supply now. Our numbers are growing, true, but there aren’t enough of us to support 10% of the Radio Shack stores out there even if we shopped there exclusively.
If there IS a viable business model for an electronics parts chain, let some entrepreneur find it. Radio Shack can’t find their butt with both hands and a topo map, and they’re in the way of that entrepreneur.
Well said, sir.
If it’s all about sourcing parts (and not about hired expertise to help your customers), I’d much rather just have Amazon.com be my parts supplier. “Free” shipping (prime) and a great return policy, plus the opportunity to have parts for my drone delivered by their drone…
RadioShack needs to become the Harbor Freight of electronic components and tools and such (some may argue they already are to a degree, but read on).
Many of you likely receive the Harbor Freight circular/coupon book in the mail. And like me, you probably open it and thumb through it even if you don’t currently need anything. Then, strangely enough, you find yourself “needing” something!
What if instead of chuckling as you throw away the unopened RadioShack advertisement, you actually opened it and scoured it for some good deals on tools/components you may not actually _need_.
Now sure, if I want a nice pneumatic finish nailer to serve me for years I’ll go buy it elsewhere, but if I need a cheap nailer that will at least get me through my next couple projects, I’ll load up the kids and head to Harbor Freight (especially if I have a super coupon).
How many folks have bought one or two or ten of the RadioShack soldering irons over the years? You knew it wasn’t a good iron, but it might at least get the job done in a pinch.
I’ve been to the Harbor Freight sidewalk sale a few times now and I guarantee you if a reimagined RadioShack (read: no cell phones & TV’s and GPS units) had a sidewalk sale, I’d be there trying to score some bargain Arduino shields, EL wire, crazy switches and plugs, pounds of fuses (I go through a lot :S), spools of wire and solder, etc.
Give me something other than dumbass commercials to make me want to visit a store. Give me an hour long class each weekend, give me a demo day every few weeks (to show off their newest tools, etc.), give me a place to take my kids where they will be excited to learn about electronics rather than beg for an overpriced toy. Send me a mailer with this month’s special deals on things I could actually be interested in, and hell, while you’re at it, throw in a neat project-of-the-month that I can build on my own (and actually have stores stock the kits to do just that).
Oh, and stop asking me for my e-mail address and phone number when I try to buy a perf board. And FFS quit asking me if I need batteries — what is this, Toys’R’Us!?
How about combine RS with Harbor, many fast foods do this sort of thing.
This, somewhere a mix between a harborfreight and an autozone. I say autozone because they will let you borrow a tool for free for a certain period, you just leave a deposit and when you return the tool you get the money back. Turn radioshack into a place where they have all of the adafruit/make stuff and RC toys etc out on the floor and a giant catalog of parts always available in the back. (Doesn’t have to be un-accessible to customers just make sure it is well stocked.)
Even if they charge a rental fee for tools. How often do you use an oscilloscope? If you only use it occasionally, wouldn’t it make a lot more sense for you to rent a 100MHz DSO from the shack for $15/day, with a reasonable deposit, than to buy one? A store could probably have a half a dozen or so, and keep up them calibrated. Have to have staff with expertise, though. Just an example, a couple years ago, I rented a rooter from Home Depot. I think it was about $30 for a 4h rental, with a $150 deposit. The guy working their rental counter gave a quick overview of how to use the equipment, and made sure I understood before walking away.
By the time the 10th customer had improperly probed a board and burned out the scope and then tried to claim that the scope wasn’t working when they plugged it in and then whined and moaned about how they “weren’t going to pay for a defective piece of equipment that they certainly didn’t ruin, etc…”, the store manager would wring their hands of the whole thing… just wouldn’t be worth the hassle. The more complex an item is, the higher the rental rate has to be (for sake of defense). Given Radio Shack’s already poor history of pricing, I can only imagine that by the time they had a scope ready to rent, the day rate would be high enough that after the 3rd day it would just be cheaper to buy a scope. I just don’t see test equipment rental to consumers being feasible…
Heck yeah – that’s actually a great idea!
Basically – make Radio Shack the “western Shenzhen/Akihabara” for parts – they could just source all their inventory from there, bump up the margin a bit for some profit, and sell, sell, sell like crazy – always having a circular with a 20% off coupon and a free “tool” or “kit” – whatever.
With the right marketing – it might just work.
Do any of you guys need some batteries?
They can’t be saved.
Considering the high priced prime locations the stores are at they need to sell merchandise with high turnover to the general public. Selling components means carrying high levels of inventory with (comparatively) little turnover. That business model works best in locations that are off high street where rents are more reasonable.
Micro Center seems to have found a good balance between selling to the mass consumer with some electronics parts. But they are never in top locations. Maybe Micro Center will expand to carrying more components. It would work much better for them economically than for the Shack.
As for proposals to convert to a hacker space etc: ever seen a hacker space in a prime retail location?
I worked there from ’86 to ’96, I still have my “ruby” and “saphire” pins. I started as a part-timer and made it to store manager. After a while I desided I didn’t need the grief, so I took a demotion and was a happy key-holder till I quit.
So, looking at what they charge for discrete components, we already are paying a premium for products at Radio Shack.
When they introduced the “Parts Express” program, I thought that was a good Idea, When it was eliminated, and then later they gutted the “Force-Feed” area, I had flash-backs of the demise of Lafayette and Heathkit.
I have the sad feeling that my child will not have the pleasure of being able to walk into a store and buy fifteen different types of LEDs, and twenty different switches. At least we still have mail-order.
I feel Radio Shack shot themselve in the foot by trying to over-extend themselves and stray beyond their core market. I saw that coming back in ’94.
Most of the suggestions here seem to be along the lines of “convert it to a hackerspace-parts-knowledge nirvana for makers”. Thats great but this would be ideally suited for a business run out of warehouse space on the edge of town. Radio Shack spent the last 20 years making themselves into a little copy of the electronics department at WalMart and doing it in the costliest retail space available.
All of the cater-to-maker suggestions are better implemented by starting over after buying the Radio Shack name at the bankruptcy auction. (If even that is worthwhile)
Radio Shack is well and truly screwed. I’ve got the slightest hint of nostalgia for the Shack of old, but c’mon, they earned this trouble twice over.
Id also bet $ the guys you used to hang out with at that radioshack of old , are on here (HAD).
I can’t speak for everyone, but yes. That was me, since the early ’70’s.
Put all the components in vending machines! Need two 83K resistors at 1:00 am?
$5.99 gets you two of em!
That’s so crazy it might just work…
Yes, yes I do…I don’t want to wait a week for an 83K resistor…
For me it was a face palm when they stopped selling ‘engineers mini notebooks’ and electronic kits, and turned into a cell phone store. I echoed the statements of several above that they would probably go out of business soon. When you alienate your customer base, you can’t expect to survive. The boneheaded Business major who made that decision should have been hanged, or tarred and feathered. I think if they cut their losses (closed what they can – maybe work something out with creditors or landlords) and went back to their roots as a haven for DIY and hobbyist electronics, they could possibly make a comeback. I’m sure they could work some deals with some of the more well known Electronics outfits like Sparkfun or maybe even Adafruit(if they quit marking stuff up so much), they could get people coming in the door again.
Classes and knowledgeable people would also be a huge plus! Crud, if I walked in and saw the cashier working on some project on the counter, and it smelled like soldering in there I might stay and talk awhile, and maybe make a friend! Instead, I hurry and pay so I can get out, and not listen to the spiel about the latest fone I should get or why my current fone sucks! Lose the cell phones! I can go to the (Insert carrier name here) store and get a better deal and chose from more fones and plans than I can shake a stick at. Why the heck would I go to radio shack to get one?
I still buy copper clad perf board from them all the time cause they have a great deal! Like $5 for a decent sized one, that I can go right home with and start on my project! More stuff like this, and I would be there all the time! My first home etched PCBs came from a Radio shack Kit! The engineers mini notebooks got me into electronics! I bought my first breadboard and soldering supplies from them… Need I go on? This is what they should have stayed with! I’m sure there are many other like me here who have a list of ‘firsts’ due to a local radio shack. Share them! Show the corporate clowns and business majors what they have done and maybe we might see a change… I’m not going to hold my breath though…
I still have the blue engineer’s note book that the mini notebooks were sourced from. I have mixed feeling for the “Shack” The local one I try to at least visit before I buy anywhere else. but… being the practical and pragmatic person that I am I go elsewhere. I feel bad for that store owner (he doesn’t do the cell phones like the others). But maybe he’s watching and can get part of his store as a hacker space, maybe, even say screw the shack and just keep his own shelves stocked from those mail order as cover his expenses, he has been in his location long enough his property should be paid for, just got to cover property taxes. As far as the CellShacks are concerned let the shareholders of shack suffer for those.
I got my start with Engineer’s Mini Notebooks too. I was about 11 or 12 (very early 90s) and wanted to buy the Phone Tap coil for some of the projects in the notebook, but the salesman didn’t want to sell it to me because he thought I was going to tap someone’s phone. He was asking a whole bunch of questions and asked me how I was going to assemble the circuit. I told him I was going to make it on a breadboard and he replied (verbatim…I’ll never forget this) “Yeah, I suppose you could staple some wires to a board.”
Radio Shack should offer pcb milling and 3d printing. These seem to be one of the biggest appeals of a hackerspace to me.
I know I’d like Radioshack to operate like a pizza joint.
“okay, so that’s two double sided PCBs on in green with a topping of silkscreen. Is this for pick-up or delivery?”
“I’ll pick it up in store. What’s the wait time on this?”
“We’ve got a couple going right now, so it”l be about 45 minutes. Let’s see, two pcbs, 15×15, double sided with a silkscreen, that comes out to $27.85.”
With a model like that, I know I’d use that all the time.
Nahhhh, just sell pizza and electronic components instead of cell phones!
Most of the stores I’ve seen are so small there’s not much they can do in the way of providing specialized services. I’d definitely be more likely to go in there if they had a few workshops (i.e. demonstrations) or a 3D printing or laser cutting/etching machine. Leave consumer electronics to the big box stores and online retailers.unless they started buying and selling used electronics.
Everyone says hire people that know something. The difficulty there is finding anyone that knows something or is willing to work for low $.
My single local RS isn’t very busy. I’ll bet that they are on the list to be shut down. There are probably people that come in and ask questions the guys behind the counter can’t answer. Perhaps not too often, but more people might come in if they knew RS really had answers for them.
The model that doesn’t work is hiring an engineer to work a counter job: Stock product, help people find cell phone covers, ring people up at the till. Every once in a while put the knowledge to use and answer arduino questions. Not cost efficient at all.
So what model will work?
I’m wondering if my local RS can still have the same battery and cell phone sales guy working for them, but somehow leverage my (engineer) knowledge anytime someone asks about parallax products. Or arduino. Or even other simple components. How might that work? A help line? IM? Telepresence? Could I charge $ a minute to RS to answer tech questions remotely?
I asked the local guy if anyone ever comes in to the store asking questions only an engineer could answer and he says that it happens. Would it make sense to implement a program where local RS stores have an expert available to them via phone, IM, or telepresence? I’d hate to see this done as a national call center type of solution. Better to be a local guy. Someone in the community. The sense of community would be important.
RS could provide experts to help without having them stand in a store draining $$, just on as-needed basis. The sales guy could say “I have no idea, but let me ask the guy that knows a ton.”
The problem is that their is business model is selling low quality consumer electronics at high prices. While I would also like to see them go back to their roots like everyone else is suggesting, I highly doubt that they would be able to generate enough revenue selling electronic components alone.
In my opinion they should get onto the “build a PC” bandwagon and stock high-quality PC components at a price that isn’t far off from online retailers. That’s in addition to stocking more electronic components. They would be swimming in money in no time.
Let it fail. The complaints we have about Radio Shack are the same complaints my great uncle had about Radio Shack in the 1980’s and he was old enough to have done contract work for the Apollo program. Let’s face it; this business offers two racks and a peg board of parts and tools that are appealing to Radio Shack’s (real) customer base. They market a branded consumer electronics line that is of poor quality in consumer perception, and yet priced at a premium. This is a sophomoric business error that they have consistently applied for decades and I’m truly surprised that some fading brand credibility established long ago has enabled them to lurch on.
Radio Shack presently holds the economy of scale and an inventory diverse enough to prevent potential market entry by smaller, more specialized fledgling businesses. For example, could you imagine a Makerbot or Reprap chain, specializing in their own product but also offering an inventory of general mechanical and electronics tools and parts with stores in mall locations nationwide??? Let Radio Shack fail so that mall venues will become more accessible to businesses that know what their customers want and who those customers are. This is the best result for anyone who needs a part and doesn’t have time to wait.
I agree, I think one of the big problems is, mainly, the almost total lack of parts. I’ve got a greater number and variety of everything except relays and incandescent light bulbs at home, and yet I’m 17, AND THEY SELL ELECTRONIC PARTS! Thery’re definately taking a step in the right direction by starting to offer arduinos, kits, etc. but what they really need to do is step it up in terms of component parts and non-starter type kits. Instead of only selling a $130 “starter kit”, sell just the $35 raspberry pi. They charge $95 for maybe $10 in components and a book. Who buys that? The people who will actually buy this stuff more than once, the dedicated consumer base that they need, will never shell out that much just to have another pi RIGHT NOW. They sell resistors for about ~25cents each. Guess where I don’t buy resistors. They sell transistors for about a dollar apiece. Guess where I don’t buy transistors.
I do like the way they handled ardiuno, however. They sell it at approximately the normal price, and therefore EVERY arduino I’ve bought has come from (guess where!) radioshack! For arduino, they even sell a bare atmega328 in the form of a “mintduino” for about $5, the retail price of an atmega. Guess where I buy those.
Point is, if they would just keep their prices within reason (no order-of-magnitude markups on small parts), then EVERYONE I know who does any kind of electronics would start buying there again. Maybe even leave the dollar-for-five resistors, but ALSO offer 200 resistors for $10. If I absolutely need two resistors NOW, I’ll pay the erroneous markup for a few, instead of buying 200 that I don’t need, but when I need a hundred, I’ll still go there and buy the two hundred. The exact number isn’t the point. It’s the idea. Open up to cheap, large-volume parts, as well as expensive, small volume parts.
And most importantly, get MORE of EVERYTHING, more types, more packages, more values, more stock. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to radioshack for a pair of LEDs, or regulators, or transistors, and they’ve got one or none, or don’t have that value of resistor in the right wattage, or some other stupid thing. Good first step would be to take the entire online store of parts and make THAT avaliable in store.
Hire knowledgeable people and pay them accordingly. They will bring customers once the word they can solve non trivial problems is out.
Don’t even think you can survive online resellers without seriously investing in knowledge, and I mean *seriously*. If all your employees can do is change a phone battery, people will end up buying online and ask their nephew / friends / online forums for help.
THIS. Our 3 local RS stores have insanely ignorant employees that are just trained to upsell phones and 50 packs of AA batteries. Ask any of the 3 local stores employees for a resistor and you get called a name while you are at the parts bin. Then there is the POS manager at the one that is truly a fat disgusting pig. He eats/farts/burps/sharts at the counter. I am now known as “fagballs” and he is “tubby” there. We have a nice hate/hate relationship. Mainly, it is the unhelpful ghetto felons that they hire that keep me ordering online. I would be willing to foot the overhead charges if I felt like it warranted it. I usually end up buying some other device from the thrift shop and tearing it down for parts in a pinch because Jameco thinks we all live in the wilds of Alaska lol. Heck, no telling how many times I have helped a customer find an easy fix right on their shelves while the employees are texting. Start at the top and bottom in a Dresden-like clean out and hire from the local hacker spaces. Seems like an easy fix. I also LOVE the idea of ordering picking up 3d printed and milled stuff if it were a possibility as described above. That would rock. Hope they can figure out how to become useful again, but at the same time it seems like they can’t decide who/m they are.
So it’s not just me, then? I’m in Fort Worth, and have yet to find a decent employee at any of the dozen stores within 5 miles of their corporate headquarters. I don’t want to be harassed by some underpaid kid with no knowledge beyond what cell phone is the newest.
Anymore, I only go to Radio Shack to check what is being clearanced out. Occasionally I’ll go for that one part I’m missing for a weekend project, but they rarely actually have what I need, and it’s a 1000% markup if they do.
As for their fate, I’m torn. I spent a lot of time as a kid staring at their catalog, my mind set on a different project every week … but the local community college that bought their new building is running out of room, and could really benefit from the extra space if they were to move out.
Everyone seems to rag on Radioshack employees, so I’ll put in my two cents that at both radioshacks that I frequent there was always at least one person who had a clue, and were usually very surprised that a 13-17 year old wasn’t buying a new iphone cord, but a couple transistors and some DIP sockets. With the number of times I’ve gone to the stores, someone usually asks what I’m working on now, and has at least, if not a better understanding of what I’m doing. Not all of them do, and I’m sure that a lot of people have had opposite experiences, but I’ve never been harassed by an underpaid college kid for buying parts or anything distinctly negative.
It is the ghetto near here. They will just laugh and mock you if you call them on stuff. I almost went back and edited out what he calls me, but admins can feel free to. It happened and continues to happen. I actually laughed when I realized what they owe most of my mall store visits to—it is right next to Sephora. Gives me a place to kick around while the wife looks at perfume and makeup. I guess they should build a bunch of Sephoras next to them so we can all be like “Hey hon, while you are at Sephora can you pick me up a Parallax shield and A SOLITARY SWITCH for under $3.50”. I keed I keed but you get the gist. Glad you had better luck with RS employees. I have lived in 6 states steadily over the course of my life and probably 2 of those stores had helpful employees. It would be something if they even tried to help, but they just want to text/pick up women and cheat old people out of money for “unlimited texting” whatever the deuce that is lol. I purposely ONLY pay cash at two locations when I pickup because I am pretty sure the guy’s pocket card swiper that he sets beside the register gets used pretty heavily. Does this sound crazy? Sure. I have call the shack numerous times to have them come down and regionally inspect the McManagers that are running their customers off. So now, since they didn’t listen to that or any other person that got rear-ended (or even worse got their ID stolen) they are trying to play catchup again. Wish we had more employees around here like the ones you describe. I wish some of this were hyperbole but here we sit :) I have actually learned more from the employees of Sephora about electronics than RS thanks to Tina and her exhaustive knowledge of Hair drier coatings and how they actually work to “soften hair”. One of my better visits to the mall lol.
Happy Tinkering to all!
Bill, next time he calls you that, just look at him very serious and ask him if he thinks he can make it to the phone to call 911 before you break all his fingers, smash his face into the counter and then take out his wallet and memorize his address so you can do the same to his parents/grandma/whoever.
“Do you feel lucky, punk?”
@justice099 as awesome as that would be, I’m not too much on the physical violence and the consequences that follow. I strongly dislike being housed against my will while people I don’t know take a dump three feet from my head. The guy calls a married dude the “F-word” and sharts himself at the counter which is probably why he acts out like that. That and being fat as he is kept him on the defensive line and away from those quarterback dreams that his dad probably reminded him about on a daily basis. I just vote with my wallet and call the regional office to no effect. There is probably a lesson in there somewhere lol, but thanks for the sympathy/empathy, chief :)
It looks like, if anything, he will be out of a job soon and can take up drinking and ordering things off of QVC while collecting morbidly obese disability from the state. I tend to run into folks like that guy above on a decent basis. The wife is absolutely baffled and wants me to become a mystery shopper so owners can see how someone that smiles, says please and thank you to the staff, and overlooks the fact that they overcharge/give the wrong order completely/incorrect change/call names etc. The only place I ever had any luck was Value City Furniture a long while back. Got called a saltine american by an urban fella working there that was trying to pick up somebody else’s mama. That time the regional manager knew exactly who I was talking about and helped me finish the description lol. I told her I would be back a couple of days later and that if he wasn’t there, the store would be free from internet shame. It all worked out and we bought our furniture somewhere else lol. There are many stories like that. I am skinny and have a nice face, so that is what folks do. It takes a special sociopath to be mean to someone that has been nothing but nice and polite. Most of the time it is people that are already having a miserable day so they just want to spread that joy and smash any happiness around them. It really burns them up if you just laugh at them as you leave. Success is the best revenge-sometimes. Other times, it is like you say.
Cool-geek-niche is the way to go. Target the shallow end of the electronic market’s Long Tail by selling gadgets and accessories you can’t find at big-box electronic stores.
Turn it into a place to *discover* new products, rather than buy what you already have in mind. Remove the things you can buy anywhere and replace with items like: unusual Bluetooth accessories, home automation, drones, home networking, Internet-of-things, car gadgets, 3D printing, accessories…
For example: sell a Bluetooth remote meat thermometer that you can monitor from your phone. Or a pet gps collar, or a car dashboard touchscreen.
As for existing products that overlap with what you can find in big-box stores, phase them out, and replace them with more unique products. If you sell a cellphone, make it something like Google’s Project Ara modular phones. Don’t sell a standard 21″ LCD monitor, sell ultra-wide format ones, and make sure you sell alternative mounting systems while you’re at it.
Mix it up, add new products often, even regularly (build quarterly anticipation). Hell, even take charge of the industry again and drive the innovation, development, and popularity of envelope-pushing technology the way Radio Shack did in the 70s and 80s. Ultimately make the store fun and a place of discovery, not a store-of-last-resort.
“Mix it up, add new products often, even regularly”
I knew someone who worked there back in the late 90s. Whenever something was discontinued it was their policy to throw away the excess inventory. It was actually supposed to go right into the dumpster behind the store! Imagine that! Needless to say most went home with the employees. I bet RadioShack helped eBay get off the ground.
I don’t know if this has changed or not but with policies like that it a frequently changing inventory could get very expensive for them!
Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)