I’ve Come To Bury Radio Shack, Not Praise It.

This is a post that has been a long time coming. Today, Radio Shack, the store that has been everything from an excellent introduction to electronics and computers to a store that sells cell phones, cell phone accessories, and cell phone plans has declared bankruptcy.

To anyone, this should not be news. For the last decade, the public perception of Radio Shack was one of a shell of its former self. In 2007, The Onion famously published Even CEO Can’t Figure Out How RadioShack Still In Business, an article that like most of The Onion’s work, is a sand dune of grains of truth.

In recent years, Radio Shack has made attempts to appeal to the demographic that holds the ‘shack in such high regard. Just four short years ago, Radio Shack made an appeal to this community and asked for suggestions for what people would actually buy at Radio Shack. The answers ranged from Arduinos and larger component selections to Parallax Propellers. Even with this renewed focus on DIY, repair, electronic tinkering, and even in-house cellphone repair shops in some select locations, this was not enough.

This was a make or break year for Radio Shack. Last fall, Standard General, a hedge fund with an amazing name, attempted to refinance Radio Shack’s debt with specific revenue benchmarks set for the holiday season. These benchmarks were not met, and now Radio Shack has filed for bankruptcy protection after reaching a deal to sell nearly 2,500 stores. Radio Shack now has about 5,000 stores in the U.S.. Half of them will close, and as many as 1,700 will be operated by Sprint. The future of Radio Shack was a cell phone store, it seems.

Right now, there are rumors of Radio Shack employees ‘released from service’, with mass closings of stores very, very soon.

There has always been a love-hate relationship with Radio Shack with the DIY and tinkerer community. It was everything from many programmer’s first introduction to computers, the only place in town you could buy [Forrest Mims]’ excellent books, to a horrible place to work, and an odd store where you need a phone number to buy batteries.

This is not a eulogy; Radio Shack isn’t quite dead just yet, and eulogies are reserved for the loved ones in our lives. Radio Shack is neither. We all have a rich history with Radio Shack, and next time you’re buying some resistors on Mouser or Digikey, just remember we’re living in a different world now.

219 thoughts on “I’ve Come To Bury Radio Shack, Not Praise It.

  1. Radio Shack sank themselves. And they have no one to blame but themselves. In a market where radioshack couldn’t figure itself out, sparkfun, and adafruit grew. Microcenters and Frys expanded. Radio Shack was mismanaged into destruction. It was not the first organization to do so. It will not be the last. And the leaders of radio shack for the past 20 years should all be held to account for decimating a mass of wealth through simple inadequacy.

    1. > sparkfun, and adafruit grew. Microcenters and Frys expanded.

      LOL, you’re actually trying to compare those? Sparkfun and Adafruit are online-only. Fry’s has 29 stores across the country. Microcenter 25.

      RadioShack had 5 THOUSAND. Think of the real-estate, employee and stock costs of that. No, they were in a very different market segments, hell, they were a completely different business altogether!

      We like to remember Radioshack as the go-to-source for hobby electronics, but we’ve been in a No-User-Serviceable-Parts-Inside era for over a generation, and the reliability of online retail has been steadily eroding everything else Radioshack was in the market for.

      1. You couldn’t be so incorrect. We live in a world with disposable devices littered with “no user serviceable parts inside”. Those in many cases are a lie. Micro center, Fry s, both have pretty decent online presence. As well as decent stores. They stay in business due to size (Here in CA, we’ve had a few MC’s close). You speak store numbers, yet mention nothing about total square footage. That is the prime key here. IF, and only IF radio shack was to be as large as fry’s or micro center, and stock similar parts. They would have had a chance. Being a cellphone focused store, with over priced, low to mid grade kitsch items, doomed them.

      2. Yeah, those stores were only in key suburbs. Also, the people I’ve talked to about Fry’s and Microcenter say that new stores open fully stocked, but these parts never get restocked again for the remainder of the location’s existence. I think it’s questionable that the market for components really isn’t there to support retail rents. Single components aren’t very profitable, and if you’re doing a project, you order online. It’s hard to make a business out of $0.99 components for a niche market, even if the component is basically free.

        You’re best off supporting a local maker space, so you have access to a community of people that might have the parts on hand for the stuff you can’t wait a couple days to receive in the mail.

        1. This is true, however, those onesey components bring people in the door. Gas stations make very little money off gasoline sales. They can only survive on the add-on purchases.

          How many times did you walk into a Radioshack and ONLY buy the one 99 cent component you went in there for?

          1. only half (or less). Not because I bought more, but because they didn’t have what I wanted or it was WAY overpriced or you have to put this-to-that-to-this to get what you really wanted. I haven’t let RS as a satisfied customer since 1988.

          2. part of not leaving ratshack as a satisfied customer has to do with when they ask you “can I help you?” the answer is usually “no, you cant” because unfortunately, most of the staff have no idea what is in the back side of the store, and what its good for. And when you go ahead and give them the benefit of the doubt, you end up saying absolutely insane things like “NO. I DONT want to buy a cell phone. I want to buy components.. no no not stereo components… ohhhfuckthis.”

          3. Sometimes I bought a few extra components, but it usually totalled to like a $5 transaction. A single phone transaction would be worth at least 20 times that. They’d try to upsell me with batteries, which I never needed. One time I bought one of the touch LCDs for Arduino, but I really regretted that one.

          4. Also, the parallels to a convenience store doesn’t really hold true for niche electronic components. The market for snacks, booze, cigarettes, etc. is so much larger than the market for resistor packs and other electronic components.

          5. For sure those no user serviceable parts mean no ordinary user serviceable parts. most people reading here are not ordinary users.
            you can’t keep a 5000 bricks and mortar stores open with only a forum of hardware hackers.

            The how can I help you question?
            profit on a 99c resistor 80c, time take to describe what the customer needs to do to make their circuit work 30 minutes, total loss a few dollars.

        2. That can’t be right. I occasionally pick up power resistors and other components at Fry’s. A couple times I cleaned out the 25W 100 and 220 ohm resistor selection, and they get restocked.

      3. But why did they have so many stores? I think my city had as many as 5 in it as recently as a couple years ago. We didn’t need that! They should have closed 4 of them. No.. .they should have closed all 5 and opened a larger oen with a bigger selection. I don’t think my city is unique, they probably could have done this in a LOT of places. They were like those big chains that open little mini “express” versions of their stores for convenience. (and usually close them in a year or two) Except… all they had was the “express” stores!

        I remember almost 30 years ago looking for parts in a Radio Shack and they didn’t have them on location. The sales guys were always very quick to offer to order them for me. What was the point? I had Mouser and Digikey catalogs, I didn’t need to pay RatShack prices just to wait for delivery! At least catalog goods, when they finally did arrive would show up at my home! Since then it’s only gotten worse.

        They also needed to lower their prices on their parts. If they are just not capable of doing that.. if their own cost in buying them is too expensive.. well.. then they might as well have sold to Sprint 10 years ago! That would probably have been a better use of their investor’s money.

        1. Radio Shack should have done several things differently. They should have had a few Best Buy sized stores (I’d say one per metropolitan area), so that they could use them as showrooms for products that they could then deliver to your home (you know, like appliance stores do with refrigerators, and Best Buy does with TVs). They should have gone strong on accessories (how often has a Radio Shack employee suggested an extra cellphone BATTERY to you? Or a foldable keyboard? Or really anything other than the phone and associated “plans”?). They should have retained and updated their ties with electronics manufacturers (sure you have Mouser and Digikey: but why can’t you have a single account for both, and pick u the order in person so that your neighbor doesn’t go snooping around it?). They could have turned all of those stores of theirs into a resource (technically they probably still had too many, but not absurdly so), but instead they did nothing.

          Sad.

          1. when is the last time you have actually seen ham radio gear in a radio shack? its been a while I am sure.
            Yeah.. maybe not best buy sized stores, but could have cut down to one or two stores per city with larger footprints and focus/selection bases on their brand. Computer systems, ham equipment, tech maker tools, kits, science and educational materials for young people…
            The key to a store like that is first to create customers for life, and then cater to them so well that they always stop in, just for fun. When those that had fond memories of radioshack when they were young as actually being relevant started getting pressured to buy cell phone contracts, it alienated the potential life customers.

        2. @Me I agree with your “less is more” strategy. Our city has(d) three stores. They all turned into phone stores with some of the worst employees and managers so I stopped going a while back. I think if they had followed your plan, they would have probably made it a good bit longer. Overhead and rent at some of their locations must have been an arm and a leg.

      4. Altronics and Jaycar are going strong while our Radio Shack(Tandy) died.

        We have two brick and mortar companies in the place of Tandy, while online markets have changed things we clearly still have a market…. at least in Australia.

        1. Have you seen how much garbage is in the latest jaycar catalogue?
          Each year they try to out do the previous but the only metric they can come up with is number of pages. The vast bulk of catalogue and store space is dedicated to crap that can be found at phone/computer/hobby shop.

          DSE has completed the conversion from electronics store to a place where you can’t even purchase a fuse, I fear jaycar is not far behind them.

    2. Sparkfun and Adafruit definitely benefitted from the failings of Radioshack (along with catalog incumbents like Jameco that never quite got their web sites up to the standards everyone else expects).

      But, even mentioning Fry’s shows a somewhat absurd level of west coast bias — Fry’s has exactly 34 stores, all west of Cleveland, meaning that despite being very profitable, it is a small chain limited in scope. RadioShack has over five thousand physical locations — not only does every city in the US have at least one local RadioShack but there’s one in many large towns as well; on top of that, it does business outside the united states under different names, and has historically been quite successful in leveraging its brand identity for re-branding imports (the various machines with the TRS-80 name, for instance).

      Saying that Fry’s stole business away from RadioShack, while technically true, is about as relevant as saying that the hot dog stand down the street stole business away from McDonalds.

      RadioShack sank themselves, for sure — but they started doing so back before hobby electronics took off, and the primary flaw in their plan was that they were unable to turn themselves around fast enough or soon enough. RadioShack had an embarassingly gutted hobby electronics selection in the late 90s, and when they gutted it further to double-down on smartphone deals, it made business sense — the arduino and HaD were new, and people walking into brick and mortar stores were much more likely to want video game accessories or bluetooth headsets than hex inverters. Obviously, this lost them some credit with the people who had been into hardware hacking for years, and who had once relied upon RadioShack for some components. But, they had no reason to care about those people; they were few, and while they had money, they didn’t have enough money to pay rent on six thousand storefronts by markup alone. But, when the maker movement got going and everyone and their grandma was buying an arduino and programming it to flash an LED, RadioShack couldn’t call upon the people who used them in the 70s to promote the idea of buying the LEDs from them rather than from Adafruit, because they had kicked those people to the curb in 2006. This wasn’t poor business so much as an accident of history.

      1. problem being when they made a change to cell phones it didnt make sense because it was a ‘me too’ choice. There was already a cell phone store on every corner that could support one, and a few more on corners that couldn’t support them. You can’t lead by following is the saying, and that is quite apt here. By the time they made that decision the movement had already been made by all the players that were going to make it work.

        Trying to figure out what would have made RS work now is like trying to figure out what would make Apple successful in the mid 90s. No one would have guessed that they would become as much a phone company as a computer company. They picked an innovation and went big with it. They made a movement.

        Radioshack had a built in niche that they were well known for. Everyone from the hacker to the tinkerer to the housewife knew that you could find electronics components at RS even if they never participated in the hobby. Their leadership took that kind of brand recognition, and the fact that they were near the only national player in it and decided to throw it away and join a market that was already full and highly competitive, where they had no ‘special sauce’ to add of their own.

        There was another american super franchise that was in trouble a few years ago. They had thousands of storefronts, many in extremely expensive real estate markets. Growth was stalling and Starbucks was going to have to close a lot of shops. Then the old CEO came back and figured out what they were doing wrong. They weren’t making coffee anymore, they were doing everything else but. You don’t hear much about a failing Starbucks in recent years anymore.

        Maybe RS overexpanded.. maybe they needed to shrink in order to survive. It was certainly doomed to be only a delaying tactic to throw away your only reputation and try to fake it in everyone else’s sandbox.

        1. Yes, “shrink” is what they need to do, not die…
          Even if it means shrinking into an “automat” (vending machine) type of business, next to, or inside a hackerspace or a hardware store.

        2. I’m sure a strong majority of adults drink coffee on a regular basis. The number of consumers that need an electronic part like loose ICs and passives is pretty damn small. That everyone knows that’s where you go for parts doesn’t make them a customer or a sustainable market. Maybe they could have done better in supplying for the maker market, but it doesn’t look like their trial balloons succeeded. I just don’t see any indication that any of Radio Shack’s old business model of stocking a copious variety of parts for a small hobby can be changed to be made sustainable.

      2. You are so correct ,I have been building electronics stuff long before most of you were born and Radio Shack up and said we dont need people like you in our stores then we did mail order with places like poly paks and others,Then the shack started selling computers one week one brand the next week another brand ,It was insane especially when the store did not use a calculator or computer at the cash pay station just someone trying to write fast on a piece of paper…pure stupidy….WCH

        1. POLYPAKS! To this day, I get giddy at the mere mention. Since the 80s, I’ve wished there were a modern equivalent. [Sadly, there now is: China. I browse eBay and other sites for multipacks of potentially useful components that I could imagine someday using, the way I once browsed/dreamed through PolyPak’s ‘newspaper’ format brochures. Perhaps delivery takes a *bit* long than PolyPaks + 70’s era USPO, but I’m more patient than I was at 13]

      3. “But, even mentioning Fry’s shows a somewhat absurd level of west coast bias”

        I wonder where you are from. Having been born and lived my life so far in the midwest (but not Chicago) I’m pretty much used to being invisible to businesses that actually sell something I want. Electronics stores, fast broadband service, etc… if it can’t be shipped in a box it might as well just be a rumor from another planet.

        Why aren’t you jaded enough not to notice that bias anymore?

  2. When radio shack attempted to enhance their DIY offerings 4 years ago they completely blew it. I have no idea who was advising them, but the attempt to sell $40 six piece switch assortments did not work out for them. I had the pleasure of speaking with an executive and purchasing guy with RS around that time and they seemed genuine in wanting to cater to the market. The execution however was laughable.

    1. Agreed. What little they added to stock was never replenished, so after a short while they’d have about 30% of the stuff you’d need to get anything done, for example shields but no Arduinos, huge gaps in wire component inventories, etc. I was really pulling for RS, I even bought some shields because the prices were actually competitive and I could get it on impulse. Half-assed and botched.

        1. Hey… speaking of which… can someone answer a question about those for me?

          I have a bunch, maybe all of those little mini sized Mims books from probably 20 years ago or so. I looked in a store recently to see if I was missing any. The titles are all different! It looks to me like it’s all the same content only they merged them. I don’t have a photographic memory though and I don’t really want to drag my collection in and start comparing page by page.

          Are the new books the exact same content as the old ones only combined into fewer/larger books? Or is there some new content thay I should go get while it’s on clearance?

          1. It was several years ago, but some of the half-sized books were merged into a couple of fatter versions with duplicate material edited out. A full-sized book was also published with some new stuff in it, but was by and large a rearrangement and reprint of the small books.

      1. Sounds like the staff was just bad. The ones I frequented got resupplied about weekly (if you expect more often than that, then as a former retail purchaser I spit upon your house: I never saw enough turnover at Radio Shack for more than an order a week, be realistic).

    2. While the idea was sound and the intent seemingly genuine the roll out was minimal and dollar signs ruled the seen. Had Radio Shack actually performed a true roll out and done more than stock a dozen items at best for the maker / hacker community and instead embraced it wholeheartedly with reasonable prices and community involvement this would be a different story now. Anyone in upper management at the company who actually cared enough could have spent a day or two online and learned just how big our community is and how much interest it generates within young and old alike but it seems that the heads of the company are dinosaurs when it comes to using the very technology they sell to better the company. Personally I hate to see that sprint will be managing some of the stores but hopefully they won’t go overboard with a cellphone centric display but instead cater to the maker and create a presence for those wanting to get into DIY communications.

      1. Well.. maybe if we had something like HaD that was available via a 300 baud dialup bbs they would have read it and we would have a nice store to shop at today!

        Come on HaD, get with the 80s!

    3. I was pulling for them too and think they were correct to supply DIY offerings but failed at execution. Microcenter’s DIY selection is admirable, but restocking key components is the trick they need to. The cell phones were a distraction but must have been the lion’s share of the income. I’d like to think that RS could flourish if they focused on DIY electronics, DIY home automation and A/V remotes, and DIY RC and Quadcopters. They half-assed all of those things and failed, but if executed properly with knowledgeable staff that don’t jump you at the door and competitive prices I think I’d be in there every weekend. From there you could explore Genius bar/Geek Squad/education at each store.

        1. They actually jumped into this early and then pulled out too soon… they were *the* source for X10 home automation equipment for a number of years. In this they were ahead of their time. But they got out of the water before the big waves finally started coming in…

    4. I was in a RadioShack this morning (looking for huge discounts others in this thread have mentioned, and didn’t find any). I did see one of those ultrasonic boards for Arduino/Pi/whatever for $30, only about 10 x the price of Amazon.

  3. Radio Shack should have become what Best Buy is now, and then some. When I worked there in the late ’80’s, they sold all kinds of home audio equipment, large screen TVs (an amazing 32″!), and pretty much everything else electronic you could possibly need in your home AND ham shack. They failed when they jumped on the cell phone bandwagon. That was the opposite of what they should have done at that time, and now thousands will need to look for new jobs, and thousands more will need to look for a new source of electronics parts and pieces.

    RIP Radio Shack. Rest in Pieces.

      1. That’s what’s messed up, idiot bombers/+security messed up a good american buisiness I suspect but now Ebay is the (everything shack)….I found it hard to find anything everything not premade was in their “parts drawers” Uv LEDs are all I found for a project a switch could have helped, but rated 10 amps a bit much, worker was clueless….can I help you? your blank stare at my question says no….

      2. You will if you want it the same day. You will if you don’t want to pay shipping. In some cities (increasingly mine included) you will if you don’t want to worry about the post office flattening or even just plain losing it.

        1. The post office doesn’t lose packages *that* often. I don’t even remember the last time a package was lost in the mail. Most companies ship in slim boxes at that, but even parts shipped from China in a bubble pack most often arrived fine.

          I’m fine with paying more just to have something that’s available locally. Unfortunately, it seems most customers of these kind of parts aren’t willing to pay more for convenience, they’ll buy from China even if it takes three weeks.

          1. I wish I could say that. the Post office lost two of my packages last November. One was somehow damaged and they threw it away. The other they seem to have delivered to the wrong house. Now I have one now that I was starting to get suspicious about because it was scanned in Chicago but then nothing for several days. Now I see it is in Missouri? I’m in Ohio!

      3. No doubt this may be an attitude I may display often as I read through the comments, but it’s a response to an attitude that’s common, and common doesn’t necessarily mean valid,omly an attitude of a small mob they may not ever do anything to offer something better. They want someone else to do the work. Well it’s going to be damned hard to find a local store, that even has a limited selection at prices you will judge out of line. What are your plans to create store of any sort a store? Even if it’s out of your garage or shed where local hobbyists can call and ask what’s a good time to stop by, and to insure you stock what they want. You will be selling the merchandise at the same price they could order them including the S/H, right?

        1. “You will be selling the merchandise at the same price they could order them including the S/H, right?”

          That would be a very naive expectation. Of course stores, employees and inventory on hand have overhead. I for one would often be willing to pay more for a device than I do online. It’s not even just about convenience.. I don’t expect to get a crappy counterfeit from a store. And.. if I somehow do I have a place to return it!

          But… paying twice as much for a pack of 1 or 2 of something as would get me a pack of 50 or 100 online.. that kind of difference is excessive and it’s exactly what I have come to expect from the Rat Shack. You aren’t going to get my business that way except maybe a few cheap items on my very most impatient of days.

    1. “They failed when they jumped on the cell phone bandwagon.”

      I too believe this is the case. In my younger years (late 70s/early 80s) Radio Shack was my go-to place for electronics books and components. I bought their kits, computers, scanners…. My first shortwave radio was a DX-160 I bought at a flea market and had in my college dorm room. I can’t help but believe that if they had focused on that market instead of jumping on the “cell phone bandwagon” along with every other cut-rate electronics store they’d be thriving, especially with today’s maker movement.

      Then again, they may have also gone the way of Heathkit. In either case, I’ll miss their convenience if not their prices.

      1. Convenience is the key word. They were the electronics convenience store. When we stop by a gas station we’ll often happily pay $1.50 or more for a 16 oz. soda, when we could just as easily buy 2 liters of the stuff at the grocery store down the street for $0.99. It’s all about the convenience.
        There is a Radio Shack at the bottom of the road I live on. I could go there, buy a part I needed, and be home in 15 minutes. Now I’ll have to wait to assemble an order large enough to justify shipping, then wait another week beyond that to receive the parts I need. Not convenient.

      2. cell phones started the downfall of radio but radio is one thing they really can’t control too easy to use morse code and typical battery radio tapping, long wire100+/-feet one end connected to piece of metal tap metal on + and – end of battery in … . . . …I think the lenght of wire determines radio frequency but a SHTF survival project….

      3. “Then again, they may have also gone the way of Heathkit.”

        You mean one day decide to drop a still viable hobbyist market in order to focus on a non-existant educational materials one? Everything I heard then and since was that Heathkit was still making money on their kits. They just had some crazy ideas that there was this huge untapped market of high schools and community colleges that wanted to teach electronics but couldn’t find anyone to write the textbooks.

        1. The problem Heathkit had was that the average age of their customers increased 1 year every year. They knew the writing was on the wall. The kits used to be bargain but along came auto-insertion technology and a machine could assemble a circuit board cheaper than you could put all those parts in little plastic bags. That’s why we don[‘t build our own TVs.

          1. I do realise that their business was shrinking. The trend did not look good. But.. they were still profitable. Many of those old timers are still fighting over unbuilt kits today and restoring old ones. Had they not thrown away that business I have no doubt there would have been downsizing but I think they could have made it to the start of the current maker movement and thrived again.

            I do realize that I’m looking at the past with knowlege of the present. They didn’t know the maker movement was coming. But.. where did they get the idea that they could do better with the education stuff! What were they thinking?! Their problem was their market was aging so they tried to sell to schools? Students weren’t flocking into EE programs! The kind of students who might have done that in prior decades were all going to computer science and had dreams of being the next .com millionaire.

            They pretty much responded to a questionable future with suicide! I wonder what their golden parachutes looked like….

          2. In reply to [Me]’s comment
            Education is how Apple stayed alive through the ’80’s and into the ’90’s. Getting into schools and having kids work on the Apple II’s and Mac prompted their parents to buy and use one for the home. So, it was an idea that worked (at that time, with that product). Even now the local community college has dropped its Electronics degree and uses Arduinos to teach Electronics and microcontrollers to students learning HVAC, and other trades.

        2. @Ren

          Apple capitalized on the fact that while most adults at the time didn’t really know what computers were about they felt that they were “the future” and that their kids needed to know them.

          Also, much of the sofware that ran on those computers was educational games that taught kids about all the other subjects that schools already considered important traditionally.

          Heathkit tried to sell electronics course materials. Unfortunately, few high schools and junior high’s seem to have any interest in teaching that subject. University students weren’t exactly flocking to it either. The types that would have done so previously were too busy taking Computer Science!

          What worked for Apple never had anything to do with what could have worked for Heathkit.

      4. “…every other cut-rate electronics store…”
        and grocery store, truck stop, gas station, big box store, discount store etc. Absolutely right.

        If I can pick up a cell phone while getting groceries or getting gas for my car, why would I go to RadioShack for it? Especially if there is a dedicated company cell phone store nearby.

      1. Not many RatShack stores have electronics salesmen. At best they have generic sales people. More likely though just a bunch of under-employed people who got desperate enough to work there.

    2. Best Buy isn’t going to be far behind.

      The problem is selling old tech at premium prices.
      The demand for DIY is good, but the margins suck. If they had to depend on just the DIY parts they would go under. They spent too much on inventory and self-branded products that were dated and not worth the price as soon as they hit the shelves.
      I think they tried to react to the market rather than lead it.
      The sad thing is that the people that made those decisions will leave with golden parachutes and the poor joe/jane in the store will just get a pink slip.

      1. When they discontinued items they used to just dump the leftovers in the trash bin behind the store once the clearance sale was over. Actually, closing stores did that too, I managed to get to one some years ago and pulled a bunch of good stuff out of the bin.

        I’d suggest forgetting about combing the desert with metal detectors and earth moving equipment. Just keep your eyes on the dumpster!

      1. Not to mention that even 50% off most of the components, it’s still more expensive than Digikey, Mouser, etc shipping included. The one advantage RS had was that you could drive to one if you needed a common part and needed it now. They really could have capitalized on that by charging only a small premium, but instead they made you pay several times as much, and at least for me that usually wasn’t worth the time savings.

    1. They should sell the drawers to a hardware store chain, e.g. Ace Hardware, and be an aisle in a larger D-I-Y venue.
      Or just get out of the mega-malls and the high rents they have to pay there, and go back to storefront mom and pop’s.

    2. I went in the other day for a simple switch,…. I’m afraid the drawers are already cleaned out and from what I remember they have been for a while. Which is the whole problem….

    3. Steven,

      I was in OfficeMax the other day. When there is a store going out of business and they say 30% off of an $80 dollar product then it isn’t a sale because I can still get the product cheaper somewhere else.

      Chuck

  4. If Radio Shack had actually listened, and actually provided, they’d be the equivalent of Mouser, only on the street corner rather than in my mailbox five days later… I’d love to see a real electronics convenience store.

    You know, being an artist and all, I’d actually go to the bother of doing up some concepts and such for them to look at, but their website is so horrible that I can’t find a place to even leave a generic feedback type comment… hmm, might have to ask Mike about that, maybe he’d be willing to send them up for me, if he can. (Mike is the owner of my local Radio Shack — it’s one of the few franchise stores left, and he and I have basically the same feelings about the corporation that has its name over his door.) Of course, even if he can send the stuff up, it’s rather questionable as to whether anyone would actually care!

    I actually kinda hate to see them go, but in a way it really is a case of “you made your bed, go lie in it”, and in a way they’re already long gone.

    1. Starhawk,

      Every child went to GameStop instead of Radio Shack. Few people are taught to fix things or build things in this country.

      The local library has a poor selection on electronic books and computer books. In the 80’s, the rave was programming and today the most computer clubs do is teach seniors how to get on the internet, use Excel or hook up their email.

      Radio Shack use to sell Vacuum tubes and television antennas for your roof but those industries have been replaced by cable or FIOS and Radio Shack did not find a replacement. What did they do with the leftover inventory? Could they sell it? Imagine if you had $80,000 in unwanted inventory? Would you be ready to invest in the next fad or would you be scared of stocking anything to be sold? What is hot today might not be hot tomorrow so it stands in the way of progress.

      Chuck

  5. I grew up in the 90’s-00’s and Radio Shack was always that place you went if you needed a part *right now*, but were not very picky about variety or price. I remember being forced to buy a $30 3′ USB cord.
    My most recent experience with “the shaft” was needing a multimeter. So I spent $30 on the cheapest model they had, a meter that was no better than the $7 harbor freight special. Except it used a proprietary 12v battery, and *IT WASN’T INCLUDED* After realizing this, I returned the blooming thing, drove the additional 5 miles to a regional department store, and picked up a similarly featured, *ANALOG* meter for $15. It still didn’t come with a battery, but as I only needed it for go-nogo dead-ness verification I was quite happy. Oh yeah, and I did put a battery in it. A double-a battery. which everyone has on hand anyways.
    GRRR, and good riddance.
    I do feel sorry for everyone who will have to find new employment. Hopefully they’ll find a decent job quickly.

    1. I had a friend who used to work at the Rat Shack. My favorite multimeter is one he called and told me about. It was the display model and he hid it for me because it was way marked down. That was my first meter that could do capacitance, he knew I was looking for that. I have better capacitance meters now but that is still my go-to continuity, voltage and resistance testor. I woudl never have considered buying it at their regular price.

      Sadly I don’t think the employees will find decent jobs quickly. My friend told me all about working there. If they COULD find decent jobs they wouldn’t have been working at the Rat Shack in the first place!

  6. Had this been 15 yrs ago I would have been heading to the “going out of business” sale with a wad of cash…. but today? Eh. No. They just don’t have my hobby wants.and needs. They’re best years were marked by the presence of a tube tester and it was sure to bring me to the store once a month or more just for that. This though, is NOT the end of an era. The era ending and was marked by Heathkit closing. Kudo’s to the talent of RS to hang on this much longer. Well done! Rest in Peace! Thank you very much for your service.

  7. I still have a few of Forrest Mims mini-notebooks I purchased when I was a child, along with his Getting Started in Electronics. I also bought my first multimeter there. Nostalgia aside, I not sorry to see it go. Radio Shack died a long time ago, it was just too oblivious to realize it.

  8. Can’t say I’ll miss them, I think I go into their stores twice a year at most, cringe when I see their prices. Leave disappointed and generally place an order with any number of other parts brokers. Tho I am sorta looking forward to seeing what I can pick up at their going out of business sale.

    1. I’m pretty sure Sprint and Amazon were just interested in buying the leases for the retail locations… Not anything to do with Radioshack. So they would turn into Sprint stores or Amazon stores.

  9. Don’t wait, several are winding down already with no major announcement. They are putting up ‘clearance up to 50% off’ signs and when you to talk to the clerk it is 50% off the entire inventory. Some stores are only discounting clearance, some with the same sign are at 25% all stock, some 50%. Out of about a dozen I have visited in the last 2 months, one is already closed, 4 have progressed through the 25%-50% all inventory stages and the others are operating as if nothing has changed.. it is a really bizarre way to do it, probably due to the differences in ownership. All of us that have depended on them for ‘I need an extra mini-UHF to N adapter or car lighter to banana Jack plug’ while travelling for work will miss them for sure.

    1. My town has two corporate ‘shacks in it (well had), One in our mall, and one on the main drag. They closed the mall store and as of right now, they are keeping the non-mall store open.

      RS mall stores have always lost them money. If you have ever worked at a store like RadioShack, you would know that selling a cellphone doesn’t really make the store any money, and the parts drawers are pure profit.

      When I worked for them, I sold the parts drawers items like they were going out of style. It is just too bad that they only cared about us selling cellphones.

      1. That may be a pattern. In my area, two stores. The mall store closed, the non-mall is still open.

        Makes sense from what I’ve heard about mall rents. Not sure what they were doing in there with all the clothing and shoe stores to begin with.

  10. In the mid 1980s, Radio Shack sold the Forrest Mims Engineer’s Notebook.

    Originally, it was about 150 pages, every page with a hand drawn schematic of a project to build. Back then, Radio Shack stocked pretty much every part. Many hobbyists learned analog electronics using that great old book. I know I sure did.

    As Radio Shack started cutting their electronics product line, they also had to cut down that awesome book. Many mini versions appeared, with more info, but featuring a limited range of projects with only a small collection of parts. The parts list had to be trimmed, since Radio Shack wasn’t carrying many of the more interesting chips, and the “fun factor” of building projects was lost without some of those more interesting chips.

    Amazon and others still sell the original 150+ page version. You can see the table of contents and many of the awesome old projects, and of course you can get the whole thing pretty cheaply.

    http://www.amazon.com/Forrest-Mims-Engineers-Notebook/dp/1878707035

    At least for me, this old book really represents the awesomeness that was once Radio Shack.

  11. If’n you charge people arms and legs for stuff that’s worth nickels… Don’t be surprised if you don’t have many takers. I can remember when Radio Shack was actually useful to electronic hobbyists.

    1. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It brings back many fond memories. I used to look forward for Radio Shack’s catalogs every year, along with Sears, Service Merchandise catalogs. Every new catalog means new products to check out. It is a very different experience and feeling to flip through the catalogs than flipping through web pages. RIP Radio Shack.

  12. I was just at RadioShack the other day. Bought a BeagleBone Black starter kit and an Arduino SD card shield, both for less than $40. Entire store was 25% off. Also, last time I was there, I bought 4 servo’s for 99 cents a piece… SOMETIMES they have good stuff in the bargain bin.

  13. we all know they’re managed horribly… but when you think about it, it makes you wonder if, had they catered even more to the maker movement, would that even be profitable as well? It costs a lot to run a brick and mortar store…their stores are small, so they can’t really keep a lot of inventory…and we have to keep in mind that while we feel the maker movement is big and still growing, most people have no clue what an arduino is
    my vision of what they should have done was something more like becoming a Techshop…fewer but larger stores offering services and classes
    but in keeping with the small stores and such an odd variety of merch, their love of cell phones, bad service along with the over pricing and mismanaging..lead them to be out competed by other stores and mainly the internet.
    however I honestly can’t see a large company with small stores all over being profitable if you catered specifically for makers
    you wouldn’t be able to compete with the internet, you wouldn’t have enough space to have everything a maker could want, the general public wouldn’t hardly buy anything, you’d have too many stores to pay for the real estate.
    I’d love to have stores like that all over but it just doesn’t seem profitable

    1. Zuul hit the nail right on the head. Radio Shack stores WORKED when the manager was a savvy electronics hobbyist himself. People don’t learn about electronics all by themselves. Someone has to get them interested, show them how, and point the way. THAT is what Radio Shack should have been doing.

      When I was a kid in the 1960’s, my local Radio Shack was the popular “hang out” for the local geeks that were into ham radio, computers, and building things in general. You could get the latest Popular Electronics or 73 ham magazine, spot a project, buy the parts in front, and build it in the shop space in back. There was even a ham station in the store. Not only was the staff knowledgeable, there were always guys hanging around “the shack” to ask questions or provide help.

      But step by step, inch by inch, Radio Shack’s corporate management crowded out such stores. They forced them to carry only Radio Shack merchandise, and discouraged having things like clubs or workshops in the store. They raised the prices, encouraging people to go elsewhere. They hired the cheapest, least experienced people they could find. They kept trying to compete in markets that already had well established competition.

      It’s no surprise that they’re going out of business. I only wonder why it has taken so long.

    2. I don’t think the maker movement or any other market (except maybe gas or groceries) would have supported all those RadioShack stores regardless of what they did with them. The key would have been to close a bunch of them, not so that they necessarily stop serving any markets but just to get rid of a lot of duplication. One, MAYBE two stores per city. At least where I am there seems to be one every few blocks. You don’t see a dozen of “Techshop” in the same city! Instead of doing one store per-city well the RatShack has been doing way too may stores… poorly. They are spread to thin.

  14. I’ve been a Radio Shack customer for 40 years and I’ll really miss them. I’m a field service engineer now and I rely on them for oddball parts when I need to make something on the fly.
    Over the last few years I’ve written some DIY articles sponsored by Radio Shack for Make Magazine. If you think you couldn’t scratch build a phono preamp or a headphone amplifier entirely from RS parts, you haven’t looked hard enough. Sure, you can order some of the same parts much cheaper from China, but Radio Shack is 2 miles from my house and Shenzhen is 3 – 5 weeks’ delay.
    I hope Radio Shack can reconfigure and stay a presence in the DIY field for us hardcore solder junkies. I just came up with a neat neon bulb relaxation oscillator circuit I can build with their parts.

    1. Shenzhen? Pretty sure that, except when a part is expensive or obscure, most here order from online distributors like Digikey, Mouser, Newark etc. At least here in the US I can get something (in fact just about anything) from Digikey in a few days, often in single quantities and without having to worry about if it’s really the part I think it is (*cough* FTDIgate *cough*). I must admit though, having parts just a trip into town away is convenient, but them costing an arm and a leg really makes me think about just how bad I need them.

      1. If you live in MN, Digikey is “down the block.” Anything you order (in stock) is pretty much one day away. Digikey has tons of information, easy to find data sheets, applications information- and if you can’t figure it out their support people ARE electronics people. I miss their paper catalogs- the web site is not as user friendly, or fun to browse, but I assume they were getting too expensive to print. Like Radio Shack catalogs I used to love as kid, I learned a lot about components from Digikey catalogs….

  15. This has caused a little bit of stress for my 6yr old. We will run to radio shack every now and then for toys and parts. Kids can’t learn from digikey and mouser they way they can from picking up a package and inspecting the contents. I’m sad to see them go, but their business model sucks.

    1. Are you close to a Micro Center? They are really phenomenal. Imagine a Radio Shack the size of a large grocery store (our local one used to be a grocery store). Each department is the size of a whole radio shack. Aisles and aisles of computer gear and parts and software and toys and televisions. The prices are not the best but the instant gratification factor and the sheer quantity of cool stuff will blow you away.

      1. Do they sell actual components? Or just pre-build modules like Arduinos and shields?
        There is one that is not exactly close to me but it isn’t totally unreachable either. I’ve been meaning to check it out since they started carrying Sparkfun. The last time I made it there all they had was computer stuff and books.

          1. I’d love to go to Fry’s but all the cool electronics goodies I would buy would probably be mistaken for a bomb by the TSA morons on my way home.

            I don’t think we have Fry’s here in the midwest and I know we don’t have them anywhere near me.

  16. The writing has been on the wall for a long time but I’ll pay tribute to the Radio Shack of my youth. I grew up in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere and on the rare occasions my family went to the closest big city my parents always indulged me a visit to a Radio Shack. I always came away happy and with a bag of parts to build something or other, including many items designed by Forrest Mims and documented in his books. Thanks for that, Radio Shack.

  17. The problem is that instead of improving the stores, the stuff, and the customer experience, they used their cash hoard to buy back stock.

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/2014/07/eric-englund/radioshack-is-going-bankrupt/

    So how did RadioShack, which had been a stock-buyback machine from 2000 to 2011, manage to eviscerate shareholder value so thoroughly that its stock has declined by nearly 99% from its December 6, 1999 high of $78.50 per share? RadioShack’s directors and officers, to answer this question, gutted the company through a reckless stock-buyback program that burned through cash as if it was trash. With the ongoing share-repurchase mania, other companies will likely follow RadioShack into insolvency.
    …snip…
    The following table disproves the claim that RadioShack’s recent losses are the proximate cause of its current financial difficulties. This retailer, since 2000, has turned a profit in twelve of the past fourteen years. From 2000 through 2011, RadioShack generated total profits of nearly $2.7 billion. In 2012 and 2013, RadioShack lost almost $540 million. Losses over the past couple of years, therefore, do not explain RadioShack’s present financial woes. Hence, in order to understand why this company is teetering on insolvency, it is critical to focus on the fact RadioShack has engaged in stupefying stock buybacks in ten of the past fourteen years. Perhaps massive stock market bull runs and miniscule interest rates, over the past fourteen years, have played into management’s decision to aggressively repurchase shares.

    Year Net Profit Stock Buybacks
    2000 $368.0 $400.6
    2001 $166.7 $308.3
    2002 $263.4 $329.9
    2003 $298.5 $286.2
    2004 $337.2 $251.1
    2005 $267.0 $625.8
    2006 $ 73.4 $0
    2007 $236.8 $208.5
    2008 $189.4 $111.3
    2009 $205.0 $0
    2010 $206.1 $398.8
    2011 $ 72.2 $113.3
    2012 ($139.4) $0
    2013 ($400.2) $0
    Totals $2,144.1 $3,033.8

    To be sure, this table should be embarrassing to RadioShack’s directors and officers. Share repurchases, since 2000, have exceeded net profits by an astonishing $889.7 million. It’s no wonder why this company’s net worth is approaching $0; and, I believe, will soon go negative. Wouldn’t these directors and officers love to have the $3 billion, they spent on stock repurchases, back in the company’s bank account? Wouldn’t an extra $3 billion, of cash, buy management the time it needs to execute its turnaround plan? RadioShack, once again, had been profitable for twelve of the past fourteen years; meaning it did a lot of things right and pleased countless customers. Alas, with a paltry cash position of $61.8 million, as of May 3, 2014, it appears unlikely RadioShack has the liquidity to execute its turnaround plan—even with a credit facility available, I believe its balance sheet is too far gone to avoid bankruptcy. Remind me again of what defines excess cash? How did share repurchases enhance shareholder value?

    1. This article explains what they were doing. They looked OK in earnings per share as late as 2010. They were flat not growing but the market rightly judged them to be rubbish they were likely trying to prop up their stock price. Then later on they were tapping this tangible value to appease large holders. This a text book case on how stock holders aren’t always good for companies. They are too mercenary and will abandon a company in hard times and force it to do things that make hard times harder. http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/03/06/radioshack-corporations-cost-cutting-is-too-little.aspx

    2. When I see share buybacks occurring at such an alarmingly high rate that they consume all of the corporate profits, that makes me think that one of two things is happening: 0) Management is deploying all profits to reduce the stock float, for the exclusive purpose of “juicing” per-share earnings. The juicing effect comes from dividing the following quarter’s similar level of income by a smaller number of outstanding shares, thereby creating the illusion of increased per-share profitability to investors. 1) Adding to the stockpile of shares owned by the corporate treasury for the purpose of executive compensation. If shares are retired from the float after repurchase, then Objective 0 is probably in play. If shares are not retired from the float after repurchase, then Objective 1 is probably in play. It would be interesting to go back in time and read the Corporation’s 10K filings to see exactly what management was trying to accomplish. I would not be surprised if the share buybacks were used to extract shareholder wealth from the company in favor of executive compensation. It makes me wonder whether that the executives could be laughing all the way to the bank after they gutted the company.

    3. There could have been some retarded executive reward program / or warrants that requires a high stock price to pay out. Replacing a debt that you do not have to pay back and do not have to pay interests on (Stocks) with much stricter enforced debts (Bonds, Bank Loans) is not very clever.

      In any case: Why buy back stock during the “naughties”, when shares were expensive to buy? If one must do it, why not do it when the price has tanked?

      1. > Why buy back stock during the “naughties”, when shares were expensive to buy?
        > If one must do it, why not do it when the price has tanked?

        If you’re using someone else’s money to buy yourself a gift that you’re just going to turn around and flip for cash, who cares what it costs?

  18. I emigrated to the US in 2000 so I never saw the Shack in their heyday. In the Netherlands there were a couple of Tandy stores scattered around the country in the 1980s, where no-one ever went because they had the same stuff as the local electronics stores, only more expensive. And they always nagged you for your address and phone number. All I ever got was a soldering iron (as a gift) and a whole lot of catalogs that got sent to my house after that.

    In 2002-2003 I worked for Radio Shack during the holiday season and after, and I have excellent memories of that time. I was there when they told employees we don’t have to ask for names and addresses anymore, but unfortunately we were still required to ask people if they wanted a satellite or a monster cable or a cell phone with that Enercell battery. I flat-out refused to do that, except sometimes as a joke with customers that I knew.

    My store had several people (guys and girls) who actually knew a thing or two that they didn’t learn from the crappy on-line-learning videos which we had to watch in the back room, and which were plain lies more often than not. I was one of them, being an electronics/computer hobbyist and maker. Unfortunately, people in the neighborhood knew this, and we would have them come into the store, ask advice about which TV, hifi system, computer or other item to buy, and then leave to go to Walmart or BestBuy to actually buy it. RadioShack simply couldn’t compete! I also heard stories of store managers who refused to sell big ticket items like camcorders to certain minority groups, because they knew that those people would go to some local parade, video the thing with their new camcorder and then return it to the store to get their money back. I don’t know if this actually happened but I wouldn’t be surprised.

    I’ve mostly forgotten about things like the one time that a customer bought a PC for hundreds of dollars that got me a nice little extra bit of income because it had a commission on it. When they returned it, I had to give the commission back, that must have been a bad week because I bet I already spent the money on something useful like toilet paper. Nope, I never made much money there, just minimum wage, which (along with the minimum wages of the other two people in my apartment) was just enough to pay the bills.

    But I also got a couple of nice things from there. The most interesting things that the store had, were all in a box of discontinued items in the back room. I bought a bunch of parts that way, with a discount of course. I also got a home theater system with a big discount because it was the display model and the cables were missing. I also got a multimeter because a customer returned it. There was a rule that any returns less than a certain value had to be settled in the store, and that one was just under the maximum. So we gave the customer a replacement, threw the broken one in the trash and I got it out of there by the end of the day. The only problem was a blown fuse. I still have it and use it often.

    So yeah, I will miss it because of my own memories of working there, not because it was ever a good store for anything, not even for cell phones or accessories.

    1. I scored a couple of Walkmans this way in 1998… of the two, the one with a good story went thusly: A couple nuns came in with a Walkman they insisted didn’t work. They’d bought the service plan (TSP, baby!) on it, so my boss handed over the equivalent replacement (actually a slightly upgraded unit as that was the closest we had) and tossed the old one. I, umm, liberated it from the trashcan, finished peeling off the TSP sticker, and took it home. I put fresh batteries in it and it fired right up. Played cassettes just fine, FM tuner was decent, and AM receiver was phenominal (best portable one I ever found).

      I still have that unit and it still works fine. No idea what they did wrong, or if they tried fresh batteries, or if they just had a cassette that had been traumatized elsewhere which then played poorly, but either way it was the highlight of that week on the RS sales floor.

      Lots of good memories from my late 90’s stint at Radio Shack. Our prices weren’t great, but nearly all of my co-workers actually knew their stuff, and my boss was one of the most awesome people I knew…

      Farewell, Radio Shack, farewell.

  19. I will fondly remember RS as the place where, for a few weeks early this year, I could buy products at 25% off of 50% off of 50% off, which is equal to or slightly greater than normal internet price. The rest of the stuff before that I’m going to try to forget.

  20. I miss the Shack of the late 80’s where I could go and get 5 1/4 copies of the latest shareware, in our tiny remote little town. The cell phone/rc helicopter store we have now can just fade away…

  21. All the Radio Shack stores closed here in Canada quite a few years ago, and to be honest the store that replaced it (The Source, by Curcuit City) was a pale imitation. It’s owned by Bell now, so yep, cell phones.

  22. 1950: Dad brings me to Radio Row in New York City. Tank radios $3. Parts Junky addiction begins.
    1951: Old Man A.C.Gilbert gives me some parts out of the bins in the factory in New Haven. Make some stuff.
    1952: Take apart a Pinball machine. Learn about relay logic. Build Vacuum tube radio
    1956: Driver’s License. Drive to Radio Shack in New Haven to buy a 22K grid resistor for a ham transmitter.
    1958: The Tandy Leather Company buys RS. New Haven store has cow pelts over on the side table Graduate HighSchool
    1960: Drive to Radio Shack to buy terminal strips, wire, tools as I build an AM Broadcast Station
    1965: No Radio Shack in Orange Country NY, try TV repair guys, mailorder from Allied.
    1970: Buy an FM Tuner from the Shack. Cheap, but OK..
    1975: At IBM. Get hassled for running down to Radio Shack to get parts I needed Today. Finally get Open P.O. At big electronics suppliers, can get 2 day delivery.
    1980: Buying real electronics parts at Radio Shack for homebrew computer stuff, phone line hacks, PC driven strobe lights etc.
    1985 combining older PC’s from IBM, scrounged parts and Radio Shack parts to do “Bits and Bytes” in school.
    1995 “Retire”. Start buying stuff from Mouser, DigiKey as well as Shack.
    2005: Parts Junky builds barn. Really dangerous in scrounged parts
    2010: Move to Shenzhen, China where wife designs new library. Find the SEG Market. 15 floors, 900 Electronics Shops. Seems like Science Fiction. Parts Addiction outta control.
    2011: Meet great Chinese guy. Meet his family in rural village. Talk about starting an Arduino business.
    2012: Move to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Find way to electronics markets. My personal Arduino / electronics stocks are better than the lab at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. Get a Fatwa for “Encouraging The Mingling Of The Sexes”.
    2013: Start YourDuino.com with my Chinese friend. Eric Pan from Shenzhen also starts selling Ardujino stuff as Radio Shack products. Good stuff! SORRY about RS Now, Eric!!
    2014: Writing lots of How-To stuff on http://ArduinoInfo.Info
    2015: Only doing Electronics and Microcomputer coding 40 hours a week. Planning LED display for 1st annual 75th Birthday Party.
    I HOPE that the one Parts Cabinet at current Radio Shack Stores can end up someplace like Walmart or a nationwide Hardware chain?? Why not??
    Regards, Terry King
    …In The Woods in Vermont, USA
    …The One Who Dies with the MOST Parts Loses! What do you need?

    1. I feel like we might’ve crossed paths at some point. My dad (Robert, or ‘Bob’ Shay) was an engineer at IBM in the 70s and early 80’s in NY. I would’ve just been about waist-high, but I remember the Radio Shack like it was Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. I had the old spring-clip electronics kits, would spend long nights bending the circuits to see which parts smoked and which ones squealed. I don’t think I got my KIM-1 from the Shack, but we darn sure got the makings for the power supply there. They really seemed to fade in the later 80’s… by the time I started going back with my own son for some project supplies we were really disappointed. Selection was minimal and prices were astronomical.

      I would kind of like to get my hands on the local shop’s set of parts bins, though… you can never have too many drawers for parts.

  23. My 1st job in electronics. Plenty of OJT on digital and Z80. Could only take about 20 months of being treated like a turd. Surprised that they stayed in business so long. Good riddance.

  24. Four weeks ago my son and I happened across a Radio Shack with a 50% off the whole store sale (we needed a proto pcb, right now). Dude said they were closing. So, naturally, we hit up two other local stores (of 4 total), both of which were 50% off as well. We bought tons of stuff. I don’t know how they do their math, but some things marked 50% off were more like 80%. We got a couple new Arduinos for $17/ea. Cases of components usually $90 were $18. T-shirts were $1.50. I grabbed a Propeller QuickStart board for $4 (four bucks!, for an 8 dollar chip with a real ftdi to boot). BTW, it’s 11 times that at Mouser. Plus normal components were indeed half off. With the wifey’s OK (amazingly, though she got some new headphones) we dropped about $150 over a couple weeks at 3 different RS stores (it was closer to $200, but that wasn’t with wifey OK. Shhhh).

    Now the interesting part. The 2nd to last store visit the lady said “Get it quick, the sale’s over soon.” When I asked what she meant she said she’d gotten a call not an hour before telling her she wasn’t closing after all, and a team of cleaners will be by to revamp the store soon. Oh, and she still had her job.

    The last store visit (30 minutes later, the other store) the guy was madly trying to keep stock moved to the back, and shelf tags lined up to product. While we were there I heard him receive a phone call. When he was done I said “Good news?” Yeah, they told him the store wasn’t closing, and a team of cleaners would be by soon to revamp the store. Oh, and he still had his job. That was two weeks ago (tomorrow). I haven’t been back by either one to see what’s going on. I may try to do that this weekend.

    Now, I know that at 50% (or more) off I still over spent on the stuff I got. But Half of it was impulse buying anyway. Yes, I can get more for less by going to Mouser, Digikey, whatever… unless I’m buying Quickstart boards. But I can’t go browse their store with cash in hand and walk out with that NEW TOYS!!! feeling while still getting something for wifey as well. Kiddo got one of those goofy X-Mods R/C cars. That thing is worth every last penny of $15 when he walks back in the house with a dirty car and a hundred dollar grin. Which has happened like a dozen times now. He also got a bunch of electronics/robotics parts, which have resulted in a lot of conversation, learning, teaching, doing, spending even more time building stuff with the boy. Because he could see it at the store and pick out what he wanted on the fly. Priceless.

  25. doomed, i tell you, doomed

    There was no hope

    The public used to fix their own radios when they were expensive, just pull out the tubes and bring them to radio shack and try them on the tube tester. This is what radio shack was for decades, the tube tester machine was prominent in the front of the store.

    but nobody fixes anything any more, and face it, there are not enough hackers and makers in the world to justify putting a store in every town.

    “they should have been more like mouser” sorry no, mouser has enormous inventory, there is no way to justify putting all of that stuff in every store, it would never ever pay off

    the economic model doesn’t work. mouser etc are too easy and too fast. stores like “you do it” and “frys” are still in business but they are single stores in strategic locations.

    Micro Center is the exception, they have just about everything you can get at radio shack and much more. but again they only have a few carefully placed stores.

    Honestly I won’t miss Radio Shack. Between Micro Center and You Do it and Mouser and Digikey I wasn’t ever going there anyway.

    1. You are most certainly correct, but people like me actually make pretty good from this sentiment of throw-away electronics. A good 50% of the electronics in my home were picked up from electronics recyclers as non-working items for a few bucks and repaired by me for cheap. I have even picked up several large LCD TVs, for $15-25 a pop and usually it was just a few caps, or a regulator, or in one case a not-so-common inverter driver IC to get them running again. I was able to turn those around and sell them for $75-$200

      Currently I have on my bench, two DLP HD projectors. One was $6 and the other $15. One needed a power supply repair and cleaning and a new lightly used lamp ($30 in parts – this was the $6 one) The other just had a bad cap on the power supply. Lamp in it still had plenty of life (looked like someone had just replaced it.)

      Haven’t decided if I will be selling them or keeping them for an SLA printer, structured light 3D scanner, or just to set up a mini theater.

      Anyway, the point is that most electronics are still very repairable, with some skill, even without the schematics and service manuals. It’s not often that it is actually some hard-to-repair BGA part that went bad. So, people can keep on tossing out their electronics. I’m sure there are plenty of people like me that appreciate it. :)

      1. Oops, lost my main point in all that. What I was leading up to is that even though most electronics can be repaired rather cheaply with some skill and experience, it is unlikely that a place like Radioshack would always have exactly the part that I needed. Perhaps that is what is different today. There are billions of different parts including the various packages. Back in the 70s and 80s, the selection was much more limited. Even trying to find exact replacements online is often time-consuming. It took me weeks to find that odd inverter controller. I ended up having to order it from China for $3 and waited another 3 weeks for it.

    2. Hehe, some people do:

      All of my HiFi equipment is used – It probably costs some poor sap the equivalent of 10000 USD back in the day, when new and shiny, it cost me about 800 USD and it still sounds perfectly. There are specialists “used high-end” dealers around so it comes restored and with a warranty too.

  26. Radio Shack should have stayed away from cell phones and toys, except for the electronically educational ones like those #-in-one boards with all the components connected to spring terminals.

    Did they ever fix their extreme screwup of switching to a new line of project boxes into which none of their decades old prototype PCB designs would fit? They either should have never done that or they should have designed a new line of PCBs to fit the new boxes.

    I discovered that when I built a dual, two speed (via switching the fans between series and parallel*) electric cooling fan controller for a 1998 Mercury Mountaineer. I bought a box and a protoboard. Got home and the #$^%^@#@^ mounting holes didn’t match. So I got a piece of 0.1″ hole spacing fiberglass perfboard, mounted the relays to it and used standoffs to mount the protoboard with the IC, 10 turn temperature adjustment pots etc.

    *Got the idea from the dual fans on some model of Peugeot. Connect them in series and they each run at half speed. When the temp rises enough the control switches the fans to parallel and they run at full speed. It also has a connection to the AC compressor clutch so when the AC is on the fans go to low speed, which will override to high speed if the coolant temp gets high enough. Schematic http://partsbyemc.com/pub/CoolingControllerSchematic.jpg An IC half the size could be used, but the quad comparator was handy, and the unused half could be used to control two more fans or for other things.

    1. i could never stomach the radio shack stuff, even when i was a kid, I built 1802 system and a nifty battery powered digital alarm clock. My dad used to bring home very cool mil-spec parts from his job, radio shack was always just a joke. And one could easily blow ones’ entire allowance on a few resistors, the prices were always beyond the pale. The only thing radio shack was good for was buying copies of Popular Electronics so I could order stuff from the mail order ads in the back, places like “Poly Paks” and “SD Sales” and “Godbout Electronics”. Soon after the monsters of digikey and mouser came along and snuffed out the little family mail-order dealers.

  27. Back in the 90’s I used to work at a Hobby shop. We’d have kids come in working on science projects all the time. If we didn’t carry something they needed, I’d sent them to Radio Shack. If a kid needed magnet wire, I would tell them something along these lines “Go to the back left corner of the store, look for a package with three spools in it. Don’t bother asking the guy at the counter for help, he’s got no idea they even sell this stuff” Invariably, the kids (and their parents) would come back with the magnet wire, and a story about how the counter person had never seen the package before.
    The writing has been on the wall for a long time.

  28. as a child of the 80s that grew up getting every diy gadget i ever needed from the shack and to hear this makes me sad. That being said, i recently was shopping at a local mall with my family and noticed a 50% off sign at that shack. To my surprise everything i could want, solder, connectors, switches, jumper wires, diods, even an arduino micro was all 50% off. As i perused the shelves one of the associates asked if he could help me find something. I replied yes, as a matter of fact he could. I needed a terminal strip. He just looked at me confused. I ended up finding what i wanted by myself, and it was still more than i could get it for online even after the 50% off. I think this sums up why this once haven of diy is about to be bye bye……

  29. Now know as “The Source” in Canada , not much any more , Estes Rocket , Candle type RC stuff , no experiment stuff (not much -b-board , part’s , etc. ) . Sad , missed my “Bat a’ Month card from younger years . (A Tandy Corp.) .

    1. To be fair, a lot of the RadioShack’s I’ve been in have an old guy (maybe middle aged) that knows SOMETHING!
      He may be the manager, he may not be there all the time, but he is the one to go to if you have a question, and you’ll get a decent answer, even if it doesn’t result in a sale.

  30. Radio Shack technical publications were manna from heaven to a 70’s kid growing up in a technologically barren environment. Learnt BASIC, my first computing language, on a shop demo TRS80.

  31. I guess part of the problem is they staffed the places with people who wouldn’t know a 2N2222 from a 555 timer. Is there enough demand for this sort of thing outside of the small independent shop run by a retired engineer here and there?

  32. Radio Shack’s equivalents in the UK all died long ago, leaving only Maplin and a smattering of tat shops. Now you can’t buy ICs without an online account, you can’t find a decent selection of electronics hardware anywhere that isn’t inflated up to 10x the normal pricing. I’d be mourning the loss of any shop that maintains actual stock of decent hardware at a sane price. Ultimately this means you’re going online to buy stuff but that often comes with a 3-4 day handling/shipping delay and that’s a nightmare when something breaks and you need something fixing fast.

    The simple answer is there isn’t the requirement for such things anymore. We live in a throw-away society inhabited primarily by folk who want to buy the latest thing and get on with drinking/living, not people who want to develop new hardware or hack old.

  33. There is a benefit…. I snagged a beaglebone Black from my radioshack locally for $20 on clearance. It’s even the current REV.

    Hoping for a nice big going out of business clearance sale to snag a lot of the arduino and other parts.

  34. I’m well old enough to remember the Radio Shack of the 80’s.

    Going to our local store was my reward for good behavior, it was my ideal choice of a birthday shopping trip, It was were I would run off to while my mother was shopping for clothes in some other store.

    My Christmas wish list was full of parts, soldering irons, robots, TRS-80 accessories, transistors, capacitors, crazy text to speech or sound generator IC’s.

    I had all of Forrest Mims notebooks (I still have them actually).

    I remember there was a printed ad / comic book sort of thing they had with science or electronics related stories.

    I remember the store clerks being blown away by this young kid buying wire wrap tools and perfboard. I remember them being into electronics as well and always having some meaningful advice or project story to share.

    It is part of the foundation of my career today and a life long hobby.

    I know everyone loves to lump blame on the company for Radio Shack’s downfall. But I remember a time when electronics and ham radio were cutting edge hobbies that a lot of people seemed to be really into. Mainly because it was before we had all the instant and cheap toys we have today!

    You couldn’t just buy a drone (RC heli or airplane really) or robot online and have it delivered over night… you had to build the damn thing yourself and really want it and work at it, or it would never become reality!

    It was far more fun and enjoyable to build your own ham radio gear than to buy some expensive piece of gear you couldn’t afford anyway, if it even existed!

    Then came a time of great excess, you could buy a lot of cheap stuff and simply throw it away when it broke. It was readily available and cheap enough to afford, so why DIY? People lost interest in what’s going on under the hood, as long as it works and doesn’t cost much, I’ll just throw it away when it breaks and buy a new one!

    Electronics fell out of being a cool hobby, even the “nerds” became more interested in other things. A lot of them went to software and computers because computers that were usable were being mass produced. The Woz’s of the world had done the hardware already. you could still “build” a computer, yes, but it was all from premade parts. And then came the internet…

    The internet, where a lot nerds and geek types were spending their efforts was the “new electronics” hobby, simply because the stuff people wanted didn’t exist yet, so the tinkering types started to work solving their own problems and ended up giving rise to the internet as we see it today… A lot of instant gratification and next day delivery.

    Now electronics as a hobby is coming back into “fad” because the software guys are interested in hardware and want to make tiny little computers and do things with microcontrollers because they want a certain kind of widget you can’t just buy, or one better than what you can buy, and fix their own stuff rather than throw it in the trash because environmental concerns are all the rage too.

    Battery technology is astounding compared to what it was a few years ago, so quadcopters and the like are all now very possible. Cheaper, more powerful microcontrollers allow the things to practically fly themselves, so you don’t have to have the piloting skills that you used to and the entry price is wayyyyyy lower.

    We are entering another era of electronics hobby simply because the technology to do newer and cooler things is here and cheap enough to make it worth while and creativity is starting to be hip again.

    Radio Shack died because it really existed in a time that was made for it. Before the internet and instant online purchases and over night delivery. That era ended a while ago, so it’s no surprise they had to change the business model to something else that still supported brick and mortar stores and a lack of interest from as many hobbyists. Many of whom moved on to the internet way of doing things anyway.

    And in a big way, Radio Shack contributed to it’s own demise because it raised all of us who built things like the modern web and better technology. It’s really rather poetic and sad at the same time.

    1. Your experience mirrors mine. Yes, when I was a kid, a visit to Radio Shack was a reward for good behavior. I spent untold thousands of lawn-mowing dollars on electronic pieces and parts, and on my TRS-80 Mod I and its accessories. I remember the kits and the Forest Mims books. I spent a lot of time lurking in that store. I loved thumbing through a Radio Shack catalog as much as I liked watching TV or eating pizza. After the manager of the local Radio Shack sold a Model II business system to a small company, he gave them my phone number, telling them that this kid knew more about computers than anyone he knew. That’s how I got my first real job, and I didn’t even have to interview for it. I got an unsolicited phonecall with an offer for a job.

      As I see it, the seeds of Radio Shack’s demise were planted many years ago when the company’s leadership decided to hitch its wagon to crappy cell phones and cheap chinese-made toys. Apparently they didn’t realize it at the time, but I certainly did—that this choice had doomed them to irrelevance.

      A “Radio Shack”, by the way, is reference to the radio operating position on a ship. Hams refer to their home stations as being located in the “shack.” When Radio Shack was conceived, the preeminent hackers and builders of the day were amateur radio operators, and this was a store for electornics-oriented individuals with a mind to make and build. Radio Shack helped lead the microcomputer revolution, and so they were valued by the early computing community as well.

      Note that Radio Shack was a division of Tandy, a company that sold leather and leatherworking goods–again, a provider of hands-on, do-it-yourself tools and materials.

      Unfortunately,Tandy/Radio Shack destroyed their own brand identify because the company’s leadership had no idea what their own business was. This is what happens when you put widget-minded MBA’s in charge of anything. They think that there is no difference between selling digital ICs, donuts, or dining room tables– a widget is a widget. Sorry gentlemen, but you’re wrong. It pays to know what you are selling, and it pays to know who your clientelle really is.

  35. Radioshack has had the writing on the wall for a long time. All their problems and more have been outlined above.

    I’m concerned about microcenter having longevity. They have so few stores and the ones require traveling a bit to find them. I’m in ny and i have to go to an entirely different borough to get to it.It’s almost like traveling to an IKEA Most are in out of the way spots.They have a huge selection of equipment but don’t turn over stock that often. Not sure how long they can keep their current model unless they grow location wise.

    The first time i went there my mind was blown at such a selection that’s offline. Gaming keyboards of all types, lots of pi’s and arduinos in stock! An entire section on hobbyist books?

  36. As much of a pain as it was, I truly miss the guy at the counter asking for a catalog number when you asked for a part. They were a parts store then! Pre-internet it’s all the hobbyist had to feed an addiction….

    RIP. Sorry that corporate idiocy and not seeing the forest for the trees killed you.

    Will stop at my local store and see what’s up for sale…

  37. I read some stories on line last night on how store employees were treated over the years. Very badly I might add
    Good riddens to upper level management and I feel for the front line people deeply having been laid off twice from
    form long term jobs that just disappeared one day.

  38. Sigh. Has everyone forgotten “Incredible Universe”, Radio Shack’s attempt at big-box retailing? My local IU is now my local Fry’s. There’s gotta be irony in there somewhere.

  39. As a former Radio Shack store manager I am not surprised by this, though perhaps surprised by how long it took to get here. Years ago they started discontinuing many things that were profitable. Not just the electronic components but also things like car stereo install kits (yes the car radios RS sold were antiquated for the day but the install stuff like brackets and harness adapters big profit esp in areas where people did a lot of stereo installs, and back then people knew RS was the walk to place to go to get the stuff not the Best Buy or Circuit City (another company Rest In Pieces) a 30 minute drive away) and other things like line out converters and even decent aftermarket speakers (better than stock but not as good as really high end car speakers at the time like Infiniti) + all the stuff to go with the install kit stuff like crimp connectors, solder, soldering irons, and heat shrink tubing (which sales were lost as we stopped selling what sold the rest of it).

    One other thing Radio Shack had but got rid of was the RSU system, AKA Radio Shack Unlimited. It basically let every RS store be a mail order warehouse able to get almost any electronic component you could think of. Big profit on parts no local store overhead and the customer paid shipping. Also didn’t just have electronic components but many things you would never find in a store as they don’t move quickly but somebody just may need, like a NTSC to PAL converter. The store I ran happened to have one sitting in the back room from a canceled (or maybe returned who knows it was in the store when I took it over) order, then one day a guy comes in asking if we had something that would let him play his US XBox in the UK (as he was moving there) and I was able to get him what he needed on the spot, and if I didn’t have it I would have been able to order it for him. Unfortunately RS’s management decided to get rid of the RSU system.

    What did I know though I was just a store manger. The upper management of the company must have known something I didn’t by getting rid of high profit margin, both stocked and non stocked products, and focusing on cell phones with generally worse deals on the phones than the cell providers own stores and also for the longest while not being able to take “poor credit” deposits in the store instead having to send them to a local Currency Exchange (retail rule #1 don’t let the customer leave until they have paid for the product (and even then it is debatable to let them leave as they can still be sold more stuff :D ) ) or the cell providers own store to put the deposit down, in either case never to see the customer again.

    In various ways I enjoyed my time there, was a learning experience in a way at least. However the second I was able to get back into the IT field (only went to RS due to the 2000 dotcom bubble bust and needed a job) I left and didn’t look back and sold the refrigerator and microwave I purchased to use in the store to the incoming manager, who not even a year later had a stress induced heart attack (and not the first RS manager in my district to have one while I was employed or soon after I was employed by RS). However I don’t in any way miss the frequent 65+ hour weeks (including one time working 70+ hr weeks for 3+ weeks straight no days off) making close to minimum wage (when also factoring in the overtime pay factor of 1.5 times) despite being a “store manager”, which IMOO was really more of a “department head” than a manager of any sorts due to all the bureaucratic overhead. Hell couldn’t even fire an employee without going 2 levels above me. Heck I took a $9000/yr pay cut to leave RS but was worth it in the long run, less working, way less stress and most importantly a more enjoyable job that provided valuable experience for the job I am currently in.

Leave a Reply to Tim Cancel reply

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