Ask Hackaday: What Can Save RadioShack?

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

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

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

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

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


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

  1. 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.

    1. “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!

  2. Get rid of the ALL the consumer crap, all of it! Close a bunch of stores, there are too many! Setup an advertising campaign and rebrand RadioShack into more of a MakerMart. Go deep in hobbies and R/C, robotics, carry ALOT of electronic components, equipment, materials like nuts , bolts and screws, stuff you can’t get at home depot and hardware stores. Carry materials like aluminium, steel, stainless, exotic woods, again things you can’t get at the local HD. 3D printers, small bench top milling machines, CNC stuff, wire, cables, connectors. Offer a PCB board service and 3d printing service, perhaps even “cheap” machine services. Lego mind storms and other “high end” tech and scientific toys… not the Walmart crap. Basically, create the best and largest “MakerMart” Also, have smart people work there and offer classes…


  3. You mean Cellphone Shack? I mean I guess cellphones have radios in them. Their stores are too small and they don’t stock anything that a hacker/maker would want anymore. How is it that Home Depot is selling the MakerBot and not them?

    Their business diverged at just about the time of the beginning of the maker renaissance. Instead of embracing it, they decided to become a generic cellphone store. I called one looking for 18650 battery holders for my vaping box mod the other day and the guy on the phone didn’t even know what a 18650 battery was.

    1. Home Depot sells MakerBot’s? When did this happen? And I’ve resorted to Amazon and eBay to find parts for 18650’s, charging circuits, and the general box mod parts my friend and I need for our cloud vapes.

    2. Their business diverged in the early ’90s.

      Back then, all the electronics rags were claiming that SMT killed the hobbyist market. Ham was starting to fall apart as a classic noob / old timer battle formed around the influx of no-code techs and commercialized personal mobile communications was becoming affordable without the restrictions of an FCC license.

      Hackers focused more on software than hardware as public internet access and cheap PCs proliferated. Microcontrollers were getting cheap, with $68.11 for a complete HC11 devkit from Motorola in 1990 and plans online for cheap PIC 16C84 programmers. Basic Stamp came out in ’92, which had the exact same impact on the hobbyist market that Arduino had 15 years later.

      But Radio Shack didn’t respond by supporting these trends. Instead of holding out against the new big box chains by continuing to offer relevant components and resources, they tried to fight them in the same high pressure low margin sales consumer gadgets business, and kept losing. Parent company Tandy even threw money at that segment with their Incredible Universe megastores, which quickly closed and storefronts were bought up by Fry’s as part of their eastward expansion.

    1. Along those lines…Adafruit + Sparkfun + a few others partner to buy. Lady Ada etc. joint run. Partner with schools to be the STEM lab. Distribute their parts within the store (e.g.: I wanted to order something for $4 from Adafruit. Shipping would have been $9.50…since insisted on UPS). Sell tools as well as parts. Set up the Adafruit/Sparkfun curriculum….

  4. Can the mushroom cloud be put back in the casing?
    Fire sale? Consider all items in inventory as a loss already and price them low to generate some cashflow. The facts Verizon will have “their” cell phone stores in the same block as RS and that phones are sold now in dollar stores makes dumping those a priority. There is no “make more $ by selling it with a plan” if it doesn’t sell.
    A *much more* massive downsizing might be the only viable plan. What is selling? Where? What stores are the most unprofitable? Can RS out-Walmart the Mighty Walmart itself on consumer electronics? RS turned into a reseller of other companies brands, can you undo 20+ years of decline and short view thinking? Maybe it’s not too late for them to read,“To Catch a Mouse Make a Noise Like a Cheese”. Ultimately realize a 250-500 store company with a large webpresence might be the “winning” result.

    1. I was scrolling down and accidentally hit report.
      HAD, Please either give us the option to unflag, move the darn button or remove the report flag altogether. Thank you.

  5. I remember the good old days when I ran to RS to buy pcb’s resistors, and such to make some basic circuits, now most of those comopnents are not handled anymore, with the engineer notebook and references to components that they handle, most of my generaton begun to dig on the electronic word firsthand, maybe this can be a good approach to teach our children on this exciting world.
    Remember your first 555 oscilator made from scratch, and the feeling that you made someting form almost nothing that worked!


  6. The answers all all the same. Ditch the cell phones is #1. They could be very effective injecting into the place for makers to go. And not just from an electronics point of view. They could carry the stuff from ServoCIty, and places like that. Not just the electronics, but the hardware to actually create stuff. In some ways replacing what has been lost when many local hardware stores have closed, that great area in the back with all the little nuts and screws, plastic washers etc. But Radio Shack need a major shake up for any of that to happen, and that’s simply not likely to happen. The Arduino stuff they’re carrying are cute….but I went in the other day for some stuff BEYOND just the basic items. They’ve gotta get deeper.
    Otherwise, hopefully we can all grab some good deals on the STORE CLOSING events.

    1. That is the problem: the pack!
      I’ve seen even the smallest and cheapest parts enclosed in their blister box. That is an outrageous waste of resources and materials: the box itself often ended up costing more than the parts inside.
      I understand this had the psychological purpose of giving more perceived value to the object if it was enclosed in its box and not sold by the thousands, therefore allowing the shop to inflate the retail price, but once people became aware of the true costs that practice should have been abandoned.

  7. Radio Shack is just not needed anymore. They were once in many cities the only place where you could get electronics supplies, but nowadays I can get everything delivered at my doorstep, at prices that shops like Radio Shack can’t beat.

  8. I worked for RS during their transition from a decent radio/audio/video/parts store to a cell phone store with a couple other pieces of garbage stuck on the back shelves. I was eventually let go because my my absolute refusal to sell people cell phones they didn’t want/need. At that time, in the late 80’s – early 90’s, the markup and incentives (to the company) on cell phones was enormous. They simply followed the money, and ruined a good business. Meanwhile, I worked for minimum wage.

    They need to get back to their namesake and start carrying radio gear again, along with A/V (remember when RS had the most awesome stereos and speakers around?), hacker/maker stuff (a much wider selection than they have now), computer gear (wouldn’t it be great to be able to buy parts to build a custom system at your local RS?), a larger selection of electronic parts (an actual selection, kinda like a mini-Mouser), and start training and actually PAYING their employees (so they might want to stick around more than 6 days).

  9. Maybe we should let them go out of business. Why sustain a failing company? Maybe it will give an opportunity to a similar business with a better plan that can cater to hacker/makers needs? They’re obviously being outplayed by online sources (sparkfun, allied, mouser, etc…)

    1. ” Maybe it will give an opportunity to a similar business…”

      Such as? As horrible as Radio Shack is, at least for most of the US there is nobody else out there selling components. Some cities are lucky and have a mom & pop electronics store but I have never seen a new one open up. For those of us who do not live in such a city It’s Radio Shack, long drives or waiting for shipping.

      I just don’t see any other chain capable of filling that market with Radio Shack’s footprint. Can you imagine Best Buy selling components? I can’t!

      1. I can imagine a MicroCenter in every city, and that’s pretty close. But coming from the other direction, with a track record of hiring knowledgeable people, and a brand that hasn’t been sullied by decades of cellphone-obsessed customer abuse.

      2. As much as I hate to say it, Radio Shack is the only electronics store within at least 1.5hr from me (assuming traffic around Chicago isn’t backed up, then it will be more like 2-3hr). You can get batteries and cell phones anywhere including grocery stores. Last time I looked, they even had NiCad rechargables at the grocery. Getting a battery holder isn’t as easy, and for LEDs and resistors they’re really my only option…unless I want to pay even more of a mark up for the stuff sold in automotive audio sections of stores or wait for delivery. They have gotten slightly better, they now have two cabinets of parts where before they only had one, but I remember buying everything I needed to build and test a power supply (simple transformer, cap, switched power cord, and array of power resistors mounted to a breadboard).

  10. Hackerspace, schmackerspace. To put hackerspaces into every store is not only an overreaction but a nightmare. It’s been pointed out that they’d have to have LOTS of gear and machinery for people to do things, and that gear co$ts. Add the price of liability insurance, increased utility costs, and man hours to supervise the activities and…well, they can’t even afford to close the stores they’d originally wanted to close. Having a close working relationship with a local, existing hackerspace (or helping to fund the establishment of one) would be the best way to proceed.

    I worked for them in the late seventies through the very early eighties. The thing that made Radio Shack special was this: they had the stuff you wanted. Parts? Got them. Stereo equipment? Lots of selection with some innovative features. Radio hobbyists could get CBs, antennas, scanners, shortwave sets. They had good stuff for kids (toys, radios, electronic kits–remember the red PerfBoxes?) as well as a great selection of just about everything. Sure, the electronic parts portion began dying off when we became a society of consumers, not hobbyists and fixers, but that’s slowly coming back.

    There were things you simply couldn’t find anywhere else but Radio Shack. They need to re-establish themselves as a niche retailer that has those neat, unique, “magic” things you didn’t know you needed until you saw them. They have the advantage of being practically everywhere–that’s the hard part. If they have the resources to refocus they can save themselves. I just don’t know if there’s time.

    1. “To put hackerspaces into every store is…”

      Way overkill with their current spread of stores. One in every community would be a nice LONG TERM goal. Start with a few in the larger communities that still don’t have another established maker space. Grow from there.

      “LOTS of gear and machinery for people to do things, and that gear co$ts”

      OK. Then how are Tech Shop, non affiliated tech shops and all the hackerspaces out there doing it? Is it somehow more expensive if a has-been, once mainstream corporation gets involved?

  11. 1) Cut stores, no more than one per city. (maybe more in the REALLY big cities)

    2) Lower component prices (higher than online is ok, current prices are not) Maybe reduced overhead from #1 will help with this? Still, somebody has to be pocketing way too much profit. Those prices are unacceptable!!!!!!!!

    3) Specifically, start carrying raw microcontroler chips plus sensors raw or on breakout (non-shield) boards. Do this along with, not in place of current Arduino plus Shield offerings.

    4) Carry more components in general. WAY more. Start by carrying everything needed to make projects found in their books. Don’t stop once that is achieved. Remember, if I have to order one thing to finish my project I have to wait. I might as well save money buying it all online!

    5) Carry more parts special order. Yes, this is done already. After accomplishing #4 those parts will all be in-store probably. Cast the net even wider for special order. I suspect that there might not be many people taking advantage of Rat Shack’s special order service today. That will improve after fixing those prices.

    6) Build maker spaces into the bigger stores. Note – most companies roll out big things like this in their biggest markets. I’m sure people living in New York City or SanFrancisco are very happy! In this case that would be stupid. Those markets are the cities which already have established maker spaces. Do some homework and start the Rat Shack maker spaces in the biggest markets which don’t already have makerspaces.

    7) Consumer electronics — give up. Sorry but EVERYONE from the carriers themselves to the people in the little booths that harass you as you walk from one store to another within a shopping mall are all selling cellphones. Why would anyone want to take on so much competition? Lose the phones! The other consumer electronics are OK I guess but most people are just buying there stereos at WalMar (yuck) and their TVs at Best Buy so don’t focuss so much on that stuff. It’s tools, components and other maker stuff that makes Radio Shack unique. Put that stuff out front and cram the consumer items in the back corner, exactly opposite of how most stores are now.

  12. Radio Shack has not ever priced their wares competitively, and their target demographic isn’t the type to be ignorant of more competitive online pricing. I never mind paying a slight premium for the convenience of brick-and-mortar, but Radio Shack are not even close to competitive.

  13. “You’ve got questions, we’ve got blank looks.”

    They went from the place I could get parts, kits, and accessories for my PC to a DirectTV and cell-phone outlet.

    RatShack’s time has come and gone. Time to die gracefully.

  14. I was a Radioshack store manager from 2005-2011, and I can tell you where their business model fails.

    1. Not allowing the staff in each location to actually run that location. Everything is monitored and managed from the regional level, and that means you spend more labor hours filling out compliance paperwork than actually helping customers.

    2. Culture of mistrust between corporation and employees. The rule books are set that you WILL NEED TO BREAK RULES TO FULFILL DUTIES IN YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION. They don’t mind if you break rules, as when they catch you, you lose your bonus, which is what they wanted in the first place.

    3. Last years Best Buy’s clearance items will not sell for full price this year in RS. I cannot tell you how much that happens.

    4. Leadership. There simply is none. The last GREAT CEO they had was Claire Bobrowski, and they fired her to bring in Julian Day from Sears, and his policies and methods are directly responsible for what they have today.

    Now, suggestions of how to fix it:

    1. Sell to The Men’s Wearhouse corporation. I know this sounds stupid, but I currently manage a location for them, and they are BY FAR the best run retail in America. Their culture of customer service and store level management would solve 95% of all of RS issues.

    2. Lease wall space to manufacturers. I never understood why LEGO didn’t own 8 feet of wall space in every store for their Mindstorms products, or why Adafruit didn’t own a 4 foot section for their items. RS strength is their position relative to customers’ locations, and manufacturers would jump at the chance for more store frontage inside of the neighborhood.

    3. More Radioshack OEM products. I can buy 1000 GPS car units myself, and have any name I want printed on them. Being a location strong company, moving most products to IN STORE WARRANTY REPLACEMENT through OEM purchases of electronics would drive immense amounts of business into the locations.

    4. They need to stop lying to themselves and stop the hasty, knee jerk reactions. I have literally been written up for having an urgent email in the AM with a need to change something immediately, only to have my boss show up 4 hours later to audit the change…. I didn’t get written up because it wasn’t done, but because it was un-done an hour later with another urgent email changing direction. They never allowed their changes to have any effect before changing them again.

    5. Remember that RS only works if they weave themselves into the fabric of the community. People came to my stores to ask advice for many problems that we were obviously not in a position to fix. Once you become the neighborhood solutions provider, they want to know where to have their car fixed, what good tailors are in the area, who washes your windows… Radioshack is the convergence point of all walks of life in America, and they have lost sight of how to best care and feed that position in society. Let the customer facing people in the stores have pride in what they DO accomplish for the customer base, instead of being belittled and called a cancer for not helping them expensively enough.

    Anyways, there is much more small things, but these are the reasons that I found better employment.

  15. If Radio Shack would have, say, an entire wall of components available rather than just a filing cabinet, that would probably help tremendously. They have not stocked what I needed more times than I’d care to think about. Obviously, they can’t stock everything on the market, but the selection of capacitors at the location(s) near me are almost laughable.

    I would pay a bit more for convenience, considering it isn’t more than doubled…

  16. The only thing that will save Radio Shack in the eyes of it’s investors will be some type of mysterious X-File fire that effects ALL 1100 stories at the same time.

    They don’t have the cash reserves, or the ability to garner new funding, to raise the Titanic.

    It’s over, stop giving it CPR and let it die in peace. Then maybe Fry’s will hand pick a few key locations, buy them at fire sale prices and expand their working business model.

    1. Frys have a good inventory of items – you can by *anything* there, but the guy selling it to you has no idea what it is! I prefer Maplin (UK). I wish we had Maplin in US locations instead of RS.

      1. I have yet to visit a Fry’s where the components section is properly maintained. Most of the hooks for popular components (leaded caps, smaller gauge hookup wire, etc) stay empty for years at a time, while a whole rack is dedicated to 10b2 tees and terminators.

  17. Someone suggested to put components in vending machines. That is a good idea, but the number of different cases and values would make the task impossible, or require a huge investment with no chance of recovering it.

    Now let’s think different and imagine a vending machine (with friggin’ lasers) that accepts data uploads (email, etc), then while you drive there:

    – laser trims your precision resistor/capacitors.
    – programs your MCUs or FPGAs (if you need a lot it makes sense)
    – etches and drills your PCBs
    – cuts, paints and drills your panels
    – cuts wood parts for your HiFi speaker box.
    – etc.

    Now THAT would be something I would drool on.

  18. 3D printers available for use (such as uploading through the web) is #1. It would be cool if they could figure out PCB fabbing, too. And as far as individual parts are concerned, I’m willing to pay a premium, but not double of online vendors (Spark, Adafruit, etc.)

  19. It’s the same story (but the opposite end of the success scale) for Maplin here in the UK.
    ‘When I were a lad’ I looked at the catalogues with my dad, flicking through the parts and bits and bobs, dreaming of what we would make from this book of dreams with the science fiction covers on the front.

    Now? it’s a horrible place, I’ve been in there twice and it’s pretty much exactly the opposite of what it was when I was a kid. It’s sterile, the guys there have no interest in the maker culture, the ‘kits’ are plastic packaged one use only crap that inspire no creativity, the parts themselves are massively overpriced, (and not from a ‘imported from china’ scale of overpriced, simply just over-bloody-priced!)

    If Radio shack in the US is anything like that, let them die, I’d rather see 1 big corporate profit spinner die and hundreds of upstart raspi/arduino/adafruit/oolmout/phenoptix organisations come up through the ranks.

    There are reasons people stop buying things from places, sometimes they are conscious and sometimes they are sub-concious, some things change over time, and generally not for the better.

  20. I have never understood how a cellphone ‘store’ makes money. I mean, how many times do you need to go there? You go there to be sold the phone, activate it when you get home and that’s it for perhaps two years. When RS sold more electronics kits and components, I was always in there as a kid. Now I have my phone, there is really no point in going there. When I do need a component, their selection is very much reduced. However, I really grudge paying over the top prices for a few resistors in a box unless it is a real emergency. I don’t think a hackerspace type place would work (cost/sq ft, insurance – people burning their fingers with a soldering iron etc.), but the idea of providing in store services like 3D printing or PCB etching would be great if the price is right. If however they don’t train their staff to be a bit more knowledgeable, they send my 3D print/PCB off to some lab (I might as well do it online myself), and keep overcharging for packaged components then I really can’t see how they will survive :-(

  21. While I’m sure we’d all love for our local RS to become a hackerspace, if they don’t even have the money to close their stores, there’s no way they can afford a bunch of 3d printers, fabrication equipment, or probably even knowledgeable staff (like us). If they can do anything at all to save themselves, they’d probably just be able to change what was shipped to which stores. Now maybe they could stop with all the cellphone crap and shift back to being a hobbyist and hacker store, but it seems they tried to do that halfheartedly in 2011 to no effect. I’m afraid they’re low on options.

    I remember a RS commercial a while back where a bunch of people in 80’s style clothing ran into a store and replaced everything. The tagline was something like “Say goodbye to the Radio Shack of the 80’s, and hello to the NEW Radio Shack.” I think every hacker, maker and electronics hobbyist died a little inside when they saw that. It’s as if RS said ‘you don’t matter’ to the people who made them big. Perhaps it’s fitting that they’re flirting with bankruptcy while the maker movement is surging ahead without them.

      1. I want the ’80s back! I’m not saying the ’80s were perfect, but I’d trade them for today in a heartbeat. If I had it to do all over again I’d party twice as hardy! Because I know now that nothing lasts forever. I instantly knew every reference shown in that commercial too. I mean I graduated high school in 1982. I’m not saying I was a fan of all of it, but I was certainly aware of it all.

  22. Like others, I think they need to go back to their roots and kick the cell phone crap completely out of the store, and replace it with more components and boards. I go to a couple of the local stores whenever I think they’ll have the parts I need, but sadly, their selection is often lacking and I wind up having to order the parts online anyways. The idea to put a couple of 3D printers and laser cutters in some of the stores is a good one, and is a service I would definitely take advantage of, since there’s only one hackerspace in town and their dues are so expensive that it doesn’t make sense to join just for one or two projects. It would be cool if maybe they could have classes, too. I know this means they’d have to retrain a lot of their staff, but I think it would be worth it.

  23. Consumer electronics are the kiss of death. We all can name many consumer electronics retailers that have come and gone – both local and national chains. They were very successful for a while, and then they were gone. Radio Shack has, miraculously, outlasted them all. But the writing’s on the wall now. Most people would go to Best Buy instead of RS for phones, TVs, etc. Even more would go to the web. RS won’t survive on consumer electronics.

    So a new business model, like catering primarily to makers, may be their only hope. It won’t sustain 7000+ stores, though: the company will be smaller. But at least it would still exist.

  24. I think you called it. “Like a sparkfun store”
    If Sparkfun partnered to sell products on the same scale they do with MicroCenter. If 3d printers were sold instead of phone cables and tablets. And if they made it like a mini hackerspace where people could gather and learn would be great.

  25. I went to the Radio Shack at Mall of America on Saturday to get some resistors, LEDs and a potentiometer. They had what I needed at the time, but it was expensive. I paid it, so I could make a blog post.

    The had an endcap ready for 3D printering. Like they had pegs for different colored filiment and shelves for printers (the endcap has been there since April). They must be considering the idea.

    If RS was hoping for us to save them, they might break down their income by item type (IE cell phones, parts, tv antennas, etc) and we could see where they are hurting, and can offer suggestions for products to beef up that department.

    Yes, I would like to see the parts back on peg boards, and get more variety. I don’t buy too many 7400 chips, so I don’t see the need for that, but it would be nice if they had some 4000 chips and maybe a place to order what they don’t have.

    Tandy Wire and Cable used to make top of the line stuff. The RG-58 cable they have in the stores is the worst crap ever. Getting a better assortment of wire would be nice as well.

  26. If radio shack would provide parts and components for a reasonable price(not like now), tools, printers and etc, not only would I love to buy from them, I’d also love to work for them. To bring this kind of mentality/lifestyle (the way of the maker) to the public would be amazing. I’ve been dreaming for a Techshop in South Florida and this would be a great opportunity for the shack to save itself and for them to be a new competitor for Techshop, a little competition is always good.

  27. The first thing I think of when I hear the name Radio Shack is cheaply made electronics. The brand name is tainted down to the very core. Literally the name screams cheaply made junk. Change the name because “Radio” limits potential customers and “Shack” is defined as a primitive shelter or dwelling. Not good.

  28. Yes, I have and I do pay a small premium to buy things from Radio Shack. The convenience of having the components you need on a shelf is worth the small added cost as many of my projects typically involve a lot of nickel and dime purchases. I have purchased a number of Arduino specific items from them and it’s been nice to have a micro on the shelf, ready to go, when I just killed one hours prior.

    I’ve always been disappointed that I typically have to wait for help staff because they’re busy with someone trying to find a phone, but that’s just the nature of their business model right now. I do fear that they would still have trouble keeping business just by catering electrical components. They would certainly need to figure out a slightly broader niche to fill.

  29. ok ideas:
    1) Open a hacker space in each store.
    2) Act as a gateway for DigiKey and Mouser. Order anything from Mouser or Digikey pay and pick up at your local store.
    3) Offer pre packaged parts kits for popular projects. Tube amps, headphone amps, 3d printers and alike.
    4) Have cutting edge technology in the stores.

  30. If RadioShack wants to really be a hacker parts retail shop, then they don’t need all those stores. When they were focused on batteries, cables, and miscellaneous junk you needed for everyday life, it made sense to have a store five minutes away from everywhere and in every mall. But, as a hacker shop, you really only need on in every city, but make it a GREAT store – well-training people, fully-stocked, good hours (even 24/7).
    Stop competing with selling phones, TVs, etc.m where you get clobbered, but start competing with the Internet sales on maker parts.

  31. Sorry – I havent read a lot of the previous comments, but I’m sure I echo some of their sentiments..

    That being said:

    First – I would recommend, as others have said, ditch the crap electronics / cell phone area and put in a DIY / hackerspace area.

    Second – Partner with local electronics guys – find guys/gals that do what we do, that can fix a 70’s amplifier by going through the schematic and actually knowing what a resistor looks like.

    Bring said electronics guy/gal in-store one or two nights a week to hold seminars / fix it sessions where folks bring in their broken goodies and learn to actually repair them. Given, this will only apply to older stuff..

    Get back to the old “computer club” mentality that was prevalent in the 70’s and 80’s – that’s all that the hackerspace movement really is – a return to these roots writ large. Start having education days and work with local schools for robotics and electronics competitions.

    I recently went into a microcenter and was astounded at the plethora of arduino / parallax / raspberry pi / nvidia sheild, etc stuff… they have an entire area, about the size of a small RS store dedicated to JUST DIY!

    And lastly – like mentioned previously. Hire AT LEAST one person per store who actually KNOWS electronics and can read a schematic and understand what you are talking about. Seriously – ask one of the kids at the average store for and DPDT switch and they look at you crosseyed.

    Lastly – Part of the responsibility DOES lie with us. As much as we all want to save a buck, and as much as we get frustrated with people not knowing what a resistor is at these stores… If WE don’t put time into the stores by actually GOING there, then we really cant complain.

    If we truly want to save the institution of the local electronics shop, then go in – learn their names, strike up a conversation – offer to he that local electronics guy who can help out. God forbid – talk to the local owner and volunteer to help if he wants to do some of these things. I know if I owned a failing store and a local couple of guys wanted to help out, I’d be all ears.

    It could be as simple as setting up a card table on a Saturday night and repairing your gear there just to get people to ask “hey – whats he doing?”.

  32. Well, there was a time when we had buggys, and buggy whips, horses and rails to hitch horses – all gone, except for a sparse few – we ride cars.

    Now we used to buy parts and build small things, heathkits became complex, then this all went away.

    Why? surface mount + automation + China + greedy parts chain.

    We make few things here now. We can not beat the Chinese cost, even for the parts alone. You can buy the finished godds cheaper from China than you can buy the parts to make it.

    So unless Chinese wages become equal to US wages, that playing field can never be level or even a little in our favor. Since our market is smaller than China, they will have a locked in volume price lower then ours.

    What caused this? It is wage driven and wages are union driven, so as time went by all major assembly was unionzed and wages wene higher,

    BUT, the Chinese now have a cheat code into the USA. Free Trade -LOL. so over time, all went to China
    Free Trade can only work between people who pay their workers the same wages.

    CUT wages in the USA to Chinese levels, or increase Chinese wages to our levels = the way, or somewhere in the middle.

    1. I agree entirely with what you state: only the big guy at the top should enjoy the fruit of the labor of the people at the bottom. That is our sacro-saint (forgive me, Jesus, I am Canadian) Capitalist System and don’t you forget it!

      But seriously, oh, what’s the point, you guys believe Economists actually know what they are babbling about…

      Let’s stick to the Radio Shack subject, shall we?

  33. Let them close down! I used to work at my local shack. I was the smartest person there. In order for them to live they would have to REHIRE ENTIRE STAFF AT ALL STORES. There are only CELLPHONE SALES people there. They know nothing. I hope they CLOSE DOWN FOR GOOD.

    Let other people start opening shops. If i had the money i would open a store just like RadioShack but with NO NO NO CELLPHONES … Cellphones killed radioshack. Ipods and ipads killed radioshack.

    RadioShack makes $$$ from stuff they brand! If i have to buy something thats $200 and make $10 off of it then im out of business. You cant make money from TINY profits and stupid staff.

    Well this goes for every radioshack ive been too.. . about 4 or 5… even one in another state… people are all about cellphones. Turn it into the CellShack. Take all electronics out of the picture. Sell it to the community for face value to break even on that at least.

      1. Management watched Radio Shack die from a ridiculously slow decline and took negligible action to actually stop it. Its absurd, like that steamroller death scene from Austin Powers. How they could sit back for a decade and make no effort at taking any decisive action to improve customer response to their merchandise is a mystery. Instead they thought that selling batteries in a high-pressure, used-car salesman fashion was the best course of action. Customers nor investors want to give these idiots money. I guess what I’m trying to say is, he might really have been the smartest person there.

          1. I often say that the only thing that makes me a genius is that everyone else around me is so stupid. How’s that for both egotism AND humility?


  34. Get people in the store and they will buy:

    Work out discounted shipping with digikey, mouser, ect. for in store pick-up. It’s a pain when packages are trying to be delivered while I am at work or class.

    Host hacker space classes in the stores

    Work with local hacker spaces to put together package deals on class supplies.

    Go back to roots and market to the hobbist and DIY more than retail electronics. Add more entry and mid level DIY products like self install home alarm systems, home automation, etc and focus on the systems that can be expanded through DIY electronics, computer connections, arduino, ect. as the customer gains skill.

  35. Partner with local makerspaces. They already have an avid community of people who need to purchase this stuff. Make it a deal that if you’re a member of the local space, you get a small % discount on components/parts. Win/win for both.

  36. Ah, good old Radio Shack. How long they’ve disappointed me. The last time I was in a Radio Shack I asked one of the associates there if they had banana jacks. He looked at me like I had three eyes. He gestured towards one of their mobile phone offerings hoping I would become interested in it instead. Ah, no.

    As for what would save Radio Shack at this point, there is always Divine intervention to consider. Perhaps they can pray for it? By the sounds of it they might be too late for that now too.

    Anyhow, thanks for the heads up. I look forward to the fire sale. I might be able to pick some stock up cheap then.

  37. The vending machine angle people have been mentioning is interesting. But make the whole store a giant AI powered vending machine. Most of the locations are small and cramped anyway, and no one can find anything. Add some remote live support like kindle fire. Stop selling new finished goods and sell parts only: computer components, batteries, chargers, bulk wire, etc. I would go to that store for immediate parts on demand if I didn’t have to deal with employees or locating items.

  38. The only thing that RadioShack offers me is convinience, granted their selection isn’t great but if I just need some wires and relays for a day project I really dont mind shelling out the extra cash. Catering to the “hardcore” consumer base is important but I think they need to better engage the general populace. For instance I was in my local RS picking up some LEDs and I saw a work/demonstration bench with a heat gun and some 2mm adhesive. I thought to myself “hey I bet they’re having a class on repairing cell phone screens ( a great DIY fix for the common person). People will be brought into the store and feel empowered about their own DIY potential.” Then I asked the clerk if they were habing a class or demo and he basically replied with ” huh? Idk”.
    Me: “I just thought with the stuff you were replacing cracked screens”
    Clerk: ” YOU can replace screens? How much do you charge?”

    Obviously this is another example of the “expert staff” but it also shows a wasted potential to get the layman excited about the abilty to fix a cracked screen (a VERY popular issue) with his own hands with $20 Radioshack parts instead of buying a new $200 iPhone

      1. LoL very true, but I just don’t think they can compete in cell phone market, if you’re gonna BUY a whole new phone you’ll go to AT&T / WorstBuy / etc…the only people who would go to RS for phoness are gullible old grandmas who dont know any better..which means RS is the direct to DVD disney rip offs of the mobile world

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.