In February 2015, Radio Shack–an icon in American malls and towns–filed for bankruptcy. You could say a lot of critical things about Radio Shack, but in many parts of the country, it was the only place you were going to go find electronic components on short notice. A lot of people of a certain age got their exposure to electronics via Radio Shack kits and parts.
Radio Shack did close a lot of stores. In fact, from 4,000 stores they are down to about 1,700. A New York hedge fund named Standard General bought all the Radio Shack assets and formed a new company (also called, oddly enough, Radio Shack). They just named [Dene Rogers] as CEO. He’s a veteran at retail sales, having been with Target in Australia and Sears in Canada.
According to news reports, the new company will grow more online sales but also wants to take advantage of the do-it-yourself niche, which has certainly been on the rise in the last few years. In addition, the company wants to engage in STEM for schools. If you browse their redesigned web site, you can see they’ve already made progress on these fronts.
We wish Radio Shack the best. We haven’t run Target or Sears stores. But it does seem with all the low-price competition online, Radio Shack will need to offer some pretty cool kits and school programs to support their overhead. True, they will make some of it up by selling Sprint cell phones, but to sustain a do-it-yourself store with a web site means you are competing with all the other places we buy components and kits today. It was one thing to pay five times the going rate for a coax connector when you needed it right now. But if you are ordering off the web and shipping it, you are going to shop on price, too.
Our advice to Radio Shack? You used to give away flashlights to sell batteries. Now you need to give away content to sell components. Anyone can sell a resistor or an LED. But having well-documented and open projects that are outside the design abilities of the average electronics experimenter is what will get people to open their wallets. The bar is fairly high, so the blinking LED kit isn’t going to sell for $49.99 in the current market. Radio Shack will have to adapt or die. We hope they adapt.
Photo credit: [Coolcaesar] CC-BY-SA-3.0