Radio Shack Returns

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

157 thoughts on “Radio Shack Returns

  1. Pricing is a good point. A few years ago, I went into a Radio Shack because I had a need for a garden variety USB cable in a hurry. The ONLY thing in the store was a Monster Cable that was something like $40. I knew when I walked in that I was going to be over charged but I just couldn’t pull the trigger for that price on a product that’s something of a nuisance (They’re all over the place, get in the way and I walk on them.) at home.

    Now I order cheap stuff from all over the world all the time. Radio Shack has a brand. But the RS “we” know pretty much went away a long time ago.

  2. At the closing sale of my local Radio Shack, even with everything at 50% off, it was just about the same price as Amazon. Hopefully they price things a little bit lower this time.

    1. Unfortunately, rent, staffing, distribution, and inventory costs will prevent any chain store from price-matching an automated warehouse built to ship directly to consumers. As a consumer, you have to decide if your purchasing patterns will support local jobs, expert personal assistance, and instant convenience; or maybe you are so locked on budget constraints that you can’t afford to support local shops.

      It’s also the store’s responsibility to not sell only chrome plated crap at highly inflated prices, just to try to make a buck off of stupid, impatient people.

      There’s a balance. Some stores find it. Old RadioShack did not. I wish the new Shack well.

      1. Honestly Radioshack needs to adopt the same business strategy as Microcenter. Allot of the time you get better prices at Microcenter than you do from ordering online. They Have large stores and plenty of staff. Yet from what I am seeing the store chains must be doing well as they are popping up more and more. Their main strategy is to carry everything and anything. Most of their shoppers go in for a cable and find themselves running out with much much more. 3d Printing filament? They have it. Components? They have those too. Overpriced kits? Yup. Reasonably priced kits? Those too, need a TV? Need a pc? all there. One more thing about radio shack. You don’t need one in every corner, pick a proper location after studying your demographics of the area and build a medium to large store. Less employees to keep and you cover the same wide area as 2 or 3 smaller stores.

      2. “Unfortunately, rent, staffing, distribution, and inventory costs will prevent any chain store from price-matching”
        Is the new RadioShack going to return to expensive shopping malls or rent space in less glamorous venues?
        The local (2 hours away) Micro Center is in an old grocery store or something. It has thousands of square feet of floor space, and they probably rent it for about the same amount as one in an upscale Mall.

        1. The given excuse is a cop-out anyway. Rent doesn’t fall into the equation as you are supposed to sell cheaper items in a store at cost or at a loss so that people will come to the store and spend their money on higher ticket items. Inventory costs actually make things cheaper. We buy 10 resistors and thus get charged a lot per resistor… rat shack should be buying hundreds or even thousands. Distribution is virtually free… they are called ups and usps. If you think a central warehouse is needed in 2016 you need to move away from the 80’s. The company should be in direct contact with the manufacturer and have goods sent from the manufacturer to the individual stores.

          Anyway, my nit-picking aside, radio shack should be able to sell items around the same cost as they are on the net, plus the cost of shipping of course. How do I know? Well Target, Kmart, Walmart and virtually every other big box store manages to do it. Electronics and components aren’t some magical thing… product is product and if other stores can sell their product at a reasonable price so can rat shack.

  3. RE: “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.”

    Creating the content would be quite the project. Unless they found a popular existing site for a partner.

    That’s right – RadioShackaday!

        1. I’m willing to bet all the posts that match this kind of ‘muh hacks aren’t l33t enough’ are by people who have never submitted to HaD or have the ability to create something worthy of hackaday, but darn it are they up to the challenge of shooting down everyone else.

    1. Actually, the Radio Shack of the 1970’s did just that…. their Forrest Mims electronics books like Transistor Projects (4 volumes) contained countless well-documented projects, and all the parts needed to build those projects were in stock. In my mind, that is precisely the model they should follow (with some updates, given all those projects can now be on-line). I partly owe my career to those Mim’s books, as my first electronics projects were based on them.

  4. where i live radioshack is gone. Microcenter has more components, better prices, and no cell phone nags. Radioshack is dead, it spent yeats alienating the workers they need, and i dont see them ever coming back, especially not to my area, so they are dead and have been for over a year. Sorry new rs.

        1. dont get me wrong either, I was the top in sales in my bracket, for my region nearly the entire time i worked there , despite handing off /all/ my cellphone sales to others. They didnt want someone who does projects and gets repeat customers. All they cared about was selling 27 phones a month as a part timer.

          1. Ditto.

            I was transfered from one of the top 5 stores in the area to one of the bottom five stores in the area. They wanted me to sell phones to a population of poor people who wouldn’t qualify for a phone anyways. This was before the “Obama-Phones”.

            On top of that, that specific store got the bulk of the spiff products. Remember those? The crap RS knew they knew they were going to discontinue so upper management would “encourage” salespeople to put the pressure on to get rid of the stock before the big price discount?

            It was stupidly awkward selling some mark a mono 2-head VCR for the price of stereo 4-head VCR offered by everyone else.

      1. +1
        Micro Center now sells more DIY stuff than RS will ever consider selling that I think RS has already lost. They’ll never catch up. The one section at our local Micro Center dispaying all the hobby stuff is larger than two complete RS stores combined, and they employ friendly geeks to help you out too.

        The new CEO reminds me of a guy I used to work for. He was inexplicably hired after running two other previously successful companies into the ground, and in no time at all, every employee knew why. Did the same at our place. Must have had a very shiny resume, but I still don’t know how somebody like that would ever appeal to whomever hired him. Oblivious to the obvious at least.

        1. Follow the money. Guys like this are often experts at stripping value from a business to the benefit of the shareholders leaving only an exsanguinated husk to be declared bankrupt as they move on.

      2. If you are lucky enough to live near a Micro Center, that is.

        Looks like Micro Center has exactly one location in all of California, and unfortunately that’s not the part of California I’m in. In contrast, there’s probably still about a dozen Radio Shack stores within a half hour’s drive from me…

        If the main advantage of brick-and mortar stores over online sales is convenience and immediate, then the sheer number and location of stores must play an important role in that calculation, I think.

        1. Microcenter is great, but there are a lot of shortcomings; lack of locations is a major one. They also have nearly zero organization beside category sections. Because they focus mostly on PCs, though, their selection of hobbyist materials is not that great (even though they stock a surprising number of 3D printers).

          On the other hand, I don’t think they would be able to justify selling the hobbyist stuff if they had to manage so many stores. They’re not actually that big of a company, to my knowledge.

      3. Yeah, must be nice to have one within driving distance. With 25 locations, it is a toss of the dice. The closest one to me is 4+ hours away in Fairfax, Va.

        Ironically, according to Wikipedia, it was founded by two former Radio Shack employees.

    1. Radio Shack exists where i am, but the useful one has left the building. The best one of the lot was an *independent* forty-plus year old Radio Shack that offered a skilled repair service as well, and could stock third party componentry when RS discontinued a product from its line. RS corporate borgs hated the few decades-old independent legacy stores that had latitude in purchasing their product offerings, and took malicious delight in larding them with mandatory obsolescence of store fixtures and signage and mounds of cell phone accessories that ended up going into the dumpster. All of this eroded the bottom line, and the “Brinks” Radio Shack, went belly up some months before the chain did. The decades of schematics went in the dumpster and the techs with decades of experience were scattered to the four winds. Someone from Sears might just be more of the same. It’s hard for a bricks and mortar presence paying for salaries/rent/light/data connection to compete with ‘pennies a pound and free shipping from China’. When the reciprocal postal agreement between our two countries lapses (if the US is in a position to let it lapse) there might be a little more breathing room–although vast, Amazon-like warehouses of readily searchable parts are not going away, and have changed the game forever.

  5. I was in Chicago for business the other month and needed an HDMI cable that I forgot to bring. Found a Radio Shack nearby in a sketchy mall. Inside was exactly as I remember from the first times I had gone in(at least at the back, it was still selling cheap stuff and phones at the front). There was enough in the back to build most projects I could want. A variety of through hole components, perf board and breadboards, soldering irons and more. I was actually quite impressed with both the selection and prices. Being from Canada I had not seen a selection like this in Radio Shack(now renamed The Source) in decades.

    I hope they are able to find a way to really grow on that market.

  6. Radio Shack has been in zombie mode since the 1990s. RS in its heyday was responsible for helping start the home computer revolution. Now its just an endless parade of CEOs claiming they can made the company relevant again. Look at the joke the Atari brand has become since they left the coinop world. Recently they decided to make a GTA knockoff with a real life rapper named “The Game” and dubbed this egomaniac their gaming ambassador whatever the fuck that means. Atari has been a magnet for out-of-work CEOs for years and Radio Shack is on the exact same path.

    A few words for the people trying to keep Radio Shack alive – he’s dead Jim! PLEASE GIVE UP!!!

    1. nice parallel with atari. Key difference though , atari didnt alienate all the employees they need to do the job they made their niche. RS did. RS had an autoimmune disease where the system they installed, attacked its very best salesmen and fired or showed them the door with poor management. They literally deserve what they got.

      1. Actually original Atari did alienate most of their programmers by paying low and refusing to ever credit any programmer by name.
        This is how original Activision was born, all the ex Atari programmers leaving to form their own company.

    2. The creepy address grabbing is probably immunised me as an already-paranoid way before the Internet got scammy.
      “Can we have your address and phone number when you buy a pack of AA batteries please?”, and hassle me to the point of walking out without my purchase.
      But who didn’t stare for hours in the parts and bits section with no cash in their pocket, I remember in particular eyeballing the SP0256, the baddest-assed robot voice synt chip. A flash from the 80’s, still available and completely arduino compatible.

      1. Since I wasn’t very social as a teenager the need for my address for EVERY transaction was downright painful. I eventually wrote my address in a pocket notebook I carried everywhere and told them to copy it. They eventually got the message at the local RS and stopped asking me.

  7. If they want to succeed…

    Carry a $199 single extruder mostly metal 3d printer. if Monoprice can do it and do it with a DECENT one, then they can.
    Carry parts or parts packs. If they are online mostly, this is trivial and they had better have Jameco or Digikey pricing.
    Pay good writers to make books again. Forrest Mims books from Ratshack helped a LOT of people get started.

    Basically. Look at what radio shack was for the past 10 years and DO NOT DO THAT. Look at what they were in the 80’s and early 90’s. Dont sell freaking cellphones.

    1. You need to go back further than the 90s. I worked there around1990 and the place was no better then, though at least the cell phones hadn’t taken over completely yet. They were jerks to their employees, cutting down on useful, unique things, and I could see even then that the place was going to be run into the ground.

      1. correct, mid 90’s they were telling their manager’s (me) that they would be millionaires in about ten years on stock options. It was a total joke because the first half of the class was how to sell etc and they openly acknowledged that the longer they played this business model out the more people would already have cell phones and how it would result in it being necessary to turn your associates into pop up advertisements at the pos and all the time. I quit because I knew it was total bs back then. No one got rich working there but the ceos who kept leaving.

      2. Stocking the parts to actually build the projects in the old Mims books again and selling them at a reasonable* price would be a great start. Then they can phase in new, more up to date books (and the necessary components) from there.

        * – reasonable price for a box store with overhead IS higher than some Ebayer shipping from China. It is not anything even approaching the jokes they have marked on their goods today though.

    2. Those books were the best!
      Forrest Mims FTW.
      RadioShack doesn’t know anything anymore. Good thing we can buy LEDs online for cheap instead of going to RS and telling them zip codes and phone numbers, just for buying an HDMI cable. While darting away from leaky AA’s and questions about my current cell phone plan. Uhgh!

  8. How hard would it be to have a few hundred square feet in a Target or Sears store displaying and seiling RS products? These places are already established, and there would be no need to build a building. One or two employees should be able to answer questions and make referrals to catalogs for parts not on shelves. And, I don’t mean employees pulled from other parts of the store to take care of the RS area. Someone with retail experience in electronics, or preferably at Radio Shack stores.

    I had a RS less than a mile from my house for 40 years or more. In the (probably) thousands of times I was there, I was NEVER approached to buy a cell phone. My wife and I did convert our original cell services to VERIZON at this store. I had one of the TRAC-Phones I heard Paul Harvey recommend. My wife originally had a Motorola ‘flip phone’ that we got through a Ford Dealer. I was an employee at that time.

    I was told that the TRAC-Phone could not be changed to any other service. When I said this to the nice young lady at the Radio Shack, she laughed and said she could change it to Verizon in minutes. She did this, and I kept the same number. Just didn’t have to buy minutes or ‘calendar time’ to keep it up. She DID NOT encourage me to buy another phone. She just went behind the counter, made some phone calls, asked us a few questions for ‘security purposes’, and within 10 minutes, handed me my old, funny-looking phone and said I was now free of TRAC-Phone.

    At a later date, she did the same thing with my wife’s Motorola Flip Phone and we then had just one bill to pay. We have both upgraded our phones to newer items. Neither of these phones came from Radio Shack. Does this sound kind of ‘disloyal’? Perhaps, but this same nice lady showed me how to use the BlueTooth to ‘sync up’ or ‘link up’ with my laptop so I could download my photos, and did this with a smile.

    I was saddened to hear that she left Radio Shack and got a job as a waitress at a local ‘chain restaurant’. She was a big asset at that store. I heard a number of people come into the stora and ask for her by name (Emily) when she was off. They usually said that they would come back when she was there. She had ‘her cusomers’ and they were loyal to her. Don’t know if RS had some kind of ‘incentive’ program to give bonuses to good salespeople or not. If they did, then she probably did OK. She knew her way around the store and usually knew instantly, if a product was in the store or had to be ordered from the catalog.

    One more thing, before this turns into a chapter of my ‘memoirs’.

    Another employee at that store, who eventually became the Manager, went way out of his way to get a ‘close out’ item for me. It was a 12V 25A switching power supply. He knew that another store, ‘on his way to work’ had a couple of them. He stopped there on his way to work and got it for me. I picked it up a day or so later at the ‘close out price’ and was most grateful to him. He would not even accept a coffee from me for his trouble. He certainly didn’t have to do this, and no one would have known the difference. From what he said, he lived about 25 miles from the store, and the store he mentioned was really not ‘on his way’.

    A nice guy who went ‘the extra mile’ for a customer and that also kept me coming back to that store. That store missed the first round of shut downs in our area, but soon had the ‘going out of business’ signs showing and the store eventually emptied out. It has been vacant ever since. In a good ‘drive by’ location, and many other stores in that same ‘strip’ still alive and well.

    Do I miss Radio Shack? I certainly do. I have been a ham operator for over 50 years and there is no telling how much money I spent at Radio Shack stores all over the country. I’ll gladly to to a Target or Sears or WalMart if they attempt this idea.

    1. I for one will not goto to target. I dont agree with their bathroom policies. What you want to do on your own time is fine; however, when my kids are involved it is a completely different story.

        1. Target has stated they recognize a difference between biological sex and gender.

          it’s the logical consequence of the SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage; now that gay people have about the same rights as everyone else (although being a protected class would be nice), demagogues and state legislatures need something else to infuriate and rally their constituency. They chose transgendered people and public bathrooms.

          Nevermind the fact that to enforce a biological sex requirement on mens and womens bathrooms would literally require a DNA test for everyone (or at least chromosome analysis, in which case what would you do with Trisomy X, Turners or Kleinfelter’s syndrome?). It’s just the latest hot button issue designed to rally support among social conservatives and evangelicals.

          Edit: There’s going to be a ton of people replying to this that can’t define the difference between sex and gender. Awesome.

      1. What policies are you referencing? Each store within a region acclimates to the area it is located. There is no corporate “bathroom” thing.

        And what rock are you hiding under?

        The local Target here has 3 “public” restrooms… not “bathrooms”, by the way…. Two are “communal” as in intended to cater to particular genders; the third isn’t identified as gender specific. And this Target was built nearly 10 years ago. The WalMart down the street and the Home Depot across the street, however, are very different.

        Still, however, when my daughter was in the age range where she required some help doing things, no one ever gave me problems regarding taking her into the “men’s” room so she could do her business, and the same can be said with regards to my son when his mother needed to help him do his thing… and this was in the 90’s.

        So, if you’re not sufficiently “evolved” to do things in the proper manner, that’s your issue.
        Every other rational person I know, knows how to get things done.

      2. Oh wah-wah, so they allow transgender people to use the bathrooms of the gender they identify with.. Big whoop!

        You’ve probably been in a bathroom with a transgendered person before and not even known it!

        Keep the political bulls**t out of a discussion about electronics and technology please.

    2. If RadioShack gets rid of their cheap batteries, pushes the cell phone stuff to one side, and has a good enough hobbyist section on the other I would reconsider. They’ll have to reward employees better too though.

  9. I think the Targets of this world are not geared towards the “high stock, slow turnover, low margin” kind of business we’re talking about. Selling electronic parts means you have to stock literally (tens of) thousands different products and most of all you need staff who know their anodes from their cathodes.

  10. I’m glad to read that Radio Shack is treading water and has a direction. I recently got into electronics and the timing is both great and poor. Great that there is so much accessible information and cheap parts to experiment and learn with, but I’m so green that I don’t know what I’ll need for some project. I’m always short one or two components, luckily I still have one radio shack nearby. They don’t have much, but have had what I needed often enough to skirt having to wait a few more days for something if bought online.

    I also found it kind of puzzling that there is no where else to buy components locally here in my city of Huntsville, AL. If there was anywhere in the USA that would have an electronics store to walk in to, I would have figured it’d be here. I can’t throw a rock in any direction and not hit an EE and have it ricochet and hit two other kinds of engineers. Component manufacturers and suppliers all over town, but no where to walk in and buy as joe-public.

    I get the supply-demand-margin-competition reasons, just moaning… that’s all.

  11. They need to get the Electronic Learning Labs back in stock if they have any hope of going the STEM route – these were very unique to RS. They are no longer stocked in store, not showing up when searching their website, and few (if any) non RS vendors that I can see.

    Not a good sign so far for a new Radio Shack.

    The latest version of the labs that were around for over a decade (or two) was really a great learning resource with two excellent Forest Mims manuals. A link to the digital one below gives you a view of the past RS – imagine this updated with an interactive and searchable interface.

    They should be working with every Middle and High School tech program to get this out there. But then again, the kids would be routinely building things that looked liked bombs or IEDs and the kids would then be taken from school in hand cuffs and expelled because the administrators today would have no clue what that white thing with all the holes in it and wires sticking out could be. And surely those little black, plastic rectangular bricks connected to all the wires must be a home brew form of plastic explosives. The flashing red and green ‘light bulbs’ must mean its armed and counting down.

    EVACUATE the building! Call the bomb squad! Don’t touch it or it could go off !

    As a tech teacher – I think we’re done as a country. Someone please just turn out the lights in a few more years (at best).

    Come on RS, get creative and leverage your past and treat your employees like humans.

        1. Oh I know! AS has become almost pure randomness. I’ll catch Robot Chicken and a few others but find myself laughing less and less.
          I started watching MeTV a few months ago. They have smarter shows. Columbo, Twilight Zone, M*A*S*H…

          1. M*A*S*H… The seemingly fastest and best written half-hour program in the history of American television, regardless of decade. It’s the gold standard, and shows no sign of ever being surpassed.

          2. I truly agree. I’m 30. Wish I could have seen in sequential order. One of the few shows that has been able to make me laugh and cry and back again without looking ridiculous.

            If anyone else likes M*A*S*H and/or Columbo and visits TvTropes frequently, please consider adding to their cause.
            Goods shows, even 30+ year old ones, deserve recognition!

            Back on topic…
            RS sux lol

  12. It would be nice to go into a Radio Shack and not have to wait 20 minutes for the employee that can ring up my purchase to get back to the store while the one that only sells cell phones twiddles their thumbs.

    All Radio Shack needs are a lot of cheap shiny things that will cause impulse buys. I know I’ve been the victim of that more than once. I have a drawer full of “I need that shiny” components that I may never use.

  13. Radioshack sure seems to coast by on a boatload of nostalgia. Remember that time when Radioshack was awesome! I mean I have some fond memories of the place from way back when but by the time they went bankrupt they pretty much sold phones…

    However I can’t think of a single recent visit (pre bankruptcy) to Radioshack where I didn’t leave either disappointing not finding anything I was looking for or worse totally shafted having found what I was looking for and paid out the nose for it. Oh that 25c capacitor…. hope you didn’t mind paying the better part of $3 for it….

    So I for one was happy to see them go. If new Radioshack manages to channel the Radioshack of the distant past that everyone seems to have a nostalgic place in their heart for, then more power to them. Still it will be an uphill battle to undo all the damage done to the brands reputation over the last decade or so. If however they carry on more like recent history Radioshack…. then they might as well have left it dead.

    1. This is reminding me of that commercial they played during the Super Bowl with Radio Shack sending the ’80s packing in a DeLorean. My thought was, “Well, they did a great job with making the commercial, except that the message was 180 degrees away from what they should have sent!”

      The ’80s seemed to be when Radio Shack actually knew what they were doing. I suggest they need to do a follow up commercial where they bring the ’80s Radio Shack back. I suggest this time they use either a Buick Grand National or a Group B rally car.

  14. That was a very interesting article. I can imagine how those poor staff felt (currently working on the bottom rung, for a major company in Australia). Treat your staff right and they will bring customers in!

    As an aussie I got to witness one of our large electronic retailers demise. “Dick Smith” used to sell components and kits but gradually transformed into a generic retail outlet. Selling cheap chinese tv’s and the same cameras and laptops you could get anywhere else for cheaper. I hope your Radio Shack doesn’t turn into this, these companies need to keep the components in stock for the once a week customers but also need to sell quality products to entice the more occasional customers (especially when competing with Amazon).

  15. I was always appalled at Radioshack’s prices, but they were the only place you could drive to and buy a single component that you needed. Now I have to wait for shipping for anything that I don’t salvage.

  16. Yeah, Sears is in the same downward spiral radioshack was in a little over a decade ago primarily due to pissing off customers with the absolute worst customer service outside the fast-food industry. Also, I don’t know about Australia, but Target in Canada was such a disaster it’s replacing “New Coke” as a case study in business classes after deploying stores with literally half-empty shelves and sporting departments carrying the wrong teams memorabilia across the country. If these are the 2 best companies on his resume, I’m not very optimistic.

  17. “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.”

    So, be like Adafruit and SparkFun, but with physical shops. May be partnering with them and selling their stuff? At least to start with?

    1. First Arduino I ever saw was at Radio Shack. I was browsing in the back to see what they might have to spark my interest. And there were an assortment of robotic kits, shields — had no idea what a ‘shield’ was. Learned what I could from reading the boxes and thought –> This is really cool stuff. Why, with a little free time one could have a ball with this.

      So why, oh why was this good stuff stuffed in the back on the bottom shelf? Why not on prominent display in the front window? Dunno, seems like their sales folks left all imagination at home.

      Seems like sometime in the early 90’s about all they could do was sell “Sell Phones.” And, I believe that was the official spelling in internal documents.

      1. A shield is an object used to deflect projectiles. A cape is a piece of fabric attached to the shoulders of stuff you wear.

        Why can’t they just be called what they are? Daughterboards. It’s been a perfectly good term since it was coined, hasn’t tarnished, doesn’t need polished *or replaced*.

        1. Because PC! Motherboards and daughterboards are sexist terms. And it’s especially hard with the Arduino, where the shields have the male connector pins. We need to have a gender neutral name, such as Personboards and Childboards. Except PerSONboards has that pesky male child inference in the middle, so we’ll have to call them Peroffspringboards and Offspringboards. And you can’t really have parents and children mating without offending someone else, so let’s call them appropriatelygenderedperoffspring boards.

          Or shields. That works, too.

  18. Returns? I’m kinda confused by this. Unless my last two years of employment were a horrible hallucination, they never really left. Yes we filed for bankruptcy protection and closed a lot of stores, but 1700ish never closed at all.

    1. Reminds me of an article I read in some women’s magazine when it was the only reading material available in the smallest room. “Breasts are back!” Huh, I wasn’t aware they had ever left.

  19. They need to get someone in there who understands the maker movement, and understands that.. SHOCKER… It is NOT a NEW thing. Sorry if I hurt your feelings, but this generation did not invent it.
    Radio Shack was, at one time, possibly before I was born, actually GOOD at something. Home audio, ham radio and the budding home computer market (Ok, actually, their computers were possibly crud.. but a LOT of people in the US had them).
    They should return to what they WERE good at, with some minor market shifts.
    First, dump the cell phone crap.. Completely. dont just push it to the side. GET it out entirely. With the only acceptable exception being data services tailored to IOT.
    Invest heavily in the reemerging hobby electronics and new tech markets. An entire section of products surrounding digital fabrication. Throw some 3D printers in the window, sell filament and extruder head upgrade kits. Run a 3D scanner service booth. Sell them as well.
    Give the ham radio people a reason to come back and visit by not simply stocking a few radios.. but actually partnering and organizing with local clubs to select GOOD radios for beginners and running licensing course.
    Get back into the home PC market with “build your own” kits and selected upgrade products.
    Run classes. MANY CLASSES. It is a model that every successful hardware store does. “sell them the knowledge and skill set. The parts and tools are thrown in for free.”
    Hire competent people to design high quality, branded kits and products, echoing back to the 100 in 1 products and Heathkit.

    And above all else, these two things are paramount:
    1: Reasonable prices, so that people do not feel like they are being abused when they need a few resistors NOW to finish a project today. and
    2: Hire people who know WTF they are doing or excited to learn. Good training of enthusiastic people who like what they do. Dont hire salesmen. Hire people who MAKE stuff. Stop thinking in terms of making a SALE. Think in terms of making an excited and loyal customer base.

    There is so much POTENTIAL, just totally floundered by people who only saw just another business, where sales are king and customers are just numbers. Maybe they felt the DIY/hobby market just wasn’t profitable in the 90s and 00s. Maybe they WERE right. Who knows. But it is CERTAINLY a strong market today.

    It absolutely infuriated me, and I am sure many MANY others that the staff had no idea what was in the back half of their own damn store. I had, experimentally, given staff a chance on numerous occasions to be of service. Never once did anyone succeed in even the most basic of questions. Except, you know.. that ONE time that I actually DID need a temporary phone for two weeks.

    One thing is absolutely clear: We see semi/commercial makerspaces like Techshop and Fablab opening doors all over the country. If there is room for competitive chain-store makerspaces, there MUST be room for at least ONE chain-store maker hardware store.

    1. Wow. But the fact that the story exists like it does points a problem bigger than the Shack… how are we turning out thousands of drones that can’t find any better employment in life than a dead company that takes perverse pleasure in abusing it’s employees?

      There is something really wrong here.

    2. Maybe RS need to run maker nights. Decide on some projects at HQ, and stock the parts. Then have local teams who tour around the branches, running evenings or weekend days showing people how to make stuff. The components can all be available in-store, at reasonable prices, with accessories and optional stuff available, so people have some choice in customising whatever they want, to their own purpose.

      Partly basic stuff like simple light detectors and tone generators, partly stuff like Arduino, with components and software libraries that are tested to work.

      They’d have to promote it a lot, explain what it is, give out leaflets in advance, that cover what’s going to happen and what’s available to make. Maybe a little Arduino robot for kids, that they can program at home over the USB port. Put the software on a CD so it’s all ready to go.

      The touring teams should be proper employees, with proper knowledge. Not cheap to employ, but you need the right people to ensure it’s going to go right. Perhaps engineers etc, who can do it on weekends or evenings alongside their normal job could come along, to run things after the original team have done a few events then moved on. It’d be important to get people who can actually get along with the public.

      Where I am, there’s no venue nearby I could go to. RS have lots of shops in lots of places. Taking advantage of that could work. You’d get in lots of people who’d become regular customers.

      That all said, Maplin in the UK used to sell mostly components and kits. Going there now, their huge out-of-town shops mostly sell Chinese disco lights, overpriced (and then some) networking equipment, and other finished products. It’s difficult cos I think most of their traditional customers order components online now, and a physical shop can’t compete. But if RS got people in specifically to make stuff, they could sell lots of kits.

    3. You’ve got questions. We’ve got blank stares. Used to be the Shack hired people who knew things about electronics and could tell you things like which resistor to use with a specific LED and supply voltage.

      Partnering with schools for STEM programs would be a good thing. An RS store could provide the class space so the school wouldn’t have to find or build room for it. Provide parts and supplies at a small profit to the store. Beyond that, the teaching would be done by an accredited teacher on the school payroll.

      RS could get on board the resurgence in hobby electronics. It nearly died out in the late 80’s and through the 90’s and 00’s due to the massive increase in cheap, ready made consumer electronics and the didn’t happen (still hasn’t) home robotics market.

      Now with dirt cheap stuff like Arduinos, Raspberry Pis, BeagleBones and so many other little single board computers, plus tons more cheap peripheral pieces, for not a lot of money one can put together a system that is plenty powerful and actually useful – with nothing but a soldering iron, a few pieces of wire and a USB cable to a desktop to send it code. Even that isn’t needed for the SBCs that come ready to boot up, just connect a display and keyboard.

      Get people interested in that part of the hobby, the quick satisfaction section. Then the ones with deeper/broader interest can learn things like 7400 chips, discrete components, designing and building their own circuits.

      But such a program requires teachers, many of them. And those teachers have to inspire some of their students to become the next generation of teachers.

  20. Isn’t this the same idiot who has people walking away from the target stores for the gender neutral bathroom bullshit? Boycott I believe?

    Oh yeah, great plan.

      1. I used to go to target occasionally… never again.

        I don’t mind tolerating people… a lot of people that think very differently from me I can get along just fine. But when they force their ideas against all the rest of society I just loose all interest in buying anything from ’em.

    1. Of all the reasons to boycott something, the presence of a gender-neutral bathroom has got to be the most trivial I’ve ever heard of. Dare I ask what the thought process is behind that?

      1. In my teenage years I thought the way these haters do. It’s hard to explain why, and even more difficult getting out of the anti-(insert group here) mindset.
        Parents tend to teach their children their own hateful feelings more often than keeping an open mind. It is a cycle of negative reinforcement that causes one to believe that said group is unworthy of respect and/or less than human. It gets to a point where imagining yourself from their perspective is nearly impossible.
        One can hope that some of these bigots realize that they are incorrect. But, as in my own case, isn’t an easy task.
        P.S. I never hurt anyone physically, but gave them zero respect for a long time. Eventually I stopped being an a-hole and we became very good friends. I regret my past mistaken beliefs greatly but it is like they say, ‘Like father like son.’
        And then one day you start thinking for yourself.

        1. Where’s the hate? Where are the what have yous that aren’t allowed in the same bathrooms as everyone else and by the same rules? I’m quite sick of PC crap.. and virtual crimes against someone’s self proclaimed false “identity”.

          Do not misinterpret pragmatism and common sense for hate.

        2. gh0stwriter88
          Fine. Not all are ‘haters’.
          But it does sound like you don’t tolerate the ‘LGBTQ-whatever their called’ very much.
          Did you read my link? Seriously think about your own thought processes.

          Please read the Wiki page and then your own post.

    2. @kleetus92
      The number of people who seriously give a shit rounds to nobody, but damned if they don’t all think it’s a huge disaster that’s killing the business. That’s the trouble with living in a political echo chamber.

  21. There’s this thing called a paradigm shift. Many of them have been triggered by this other thing called the “internet” and in the future there will be many many more of these paradigm shifts. The only constant in life is change and one must eventually learn to accept this or spend one’s life dwelling on the past. Like many of you, I also have fond memories of Radio Shack in it’s heyday. However, things have changed and those days are long gone. Was there mismanagement and poor business planning in their final years? Perhaps, but to some extent what happened to Radio Shack was inevitable. The “Radio shacks” of today are places like BG micro, All electronics Corp, mouser, Digi-key, etc that either sell entirely online or mostly online.

  22. I worked at a Radio Shack in NJ. I used to love getting that new catalog every year salivating over the radio stuff a teen kid could never afford like the DX-302. I do miss the days of LED displays. As I get older, the LCD stuff isn’t as sharp as it was wans. At the Shack, it was before cellphones etc. It was a fun job, being a detective, finding exactly what the customer wanted, Getting to play with all the new stuff as it came in. Nowadays, you can find all the stuff online, even the old DX-302 on EBay. Today, it’s literally possible to get anything you want, from any time period online. While the Shack may have it right then, right now at the swipe of a card. The 1 day shipping and lower prices of online retail will keep Radio Shack a shadow of its former self.

    1. There are a lot of people out there building Arduino controlled transcievers using DDS chips. Most use either character LCDs or graphic LCDs. Some have some pretty slick graphics. Anyway… since LED is your thing it should be trivial to do this yourself using an LED display.

  23. RS has no chance to survive as the RS from the nostalgic times.
    – The market for electronic parts is way too small to sustain a chain of brick and mortar shops.
    – Online shops, even with same/next day delivery, are way more cheaper.
    – Electronics gadgets are kind of consumables now. No more repairs like 20+ years ago. Only hobby/makers needs parts.
    – No matter how much STEAM we pump, there are a lot of other distractions way cheaper and easier then tinkering. Internet, YouTube, social media, video games are all competing for our free time.
    – Most of the gadgets that used to make big sales are now replaced by a (free) phone App.
    – Prices for electronics and parts are ridiculously cheaper then a few decades ago.
    – For the newcomers, the knowledge barrier to enter in the electronics/maker hobby is higher every day. Apart from what it was necessary to know decades ago, now you also need to know a little programming, maybe some CAD, EDA tools, networking, computers, IT and so on.

    My bet is the hobby demand for electronic parts will shrink, while the demand for modules/boards will grow.

  24. I miss the real Radio Shack. I mean the one that existed in the ’60’s and sold components and had everything you wanted. There were three big electronics catalog stores back then; Allied Radio, Lafayette Electronics and Radio Shack. If I remember correctly, Allied bought Lafayette first, then later bought Radio Shack. It was called Allied Radio Shack for a while before it simplified the name to simply Radio Shack. I missed the event where Tandy bought them, but I don’t remember any retail stores before recognizing that Tandy owned them. So, I think a return to their roots as a catalog store, with high web presence, might be good for them. A site with lots of components, kits, tutorials and demos might be a good thing. I don’t expect them to go back to selling tubes for my old ham radio sets, but I would like to see the variety, and major cross-reference of components.

    1. !Lafayette remained independent, until it closed up in the eighties. There was also Olson, Burstein-Applebee and Caletro might have done mail order. Lots of places had stores that would sell to the hobbyist, though they might have also relied on small tv repair shops for customers. One reason a lot of those faded, apart from rising rent and maybe owners ready tor retire was the landscape changed, a shift from tubes to semiconductors, especially ICs. Suddenly new places came along, sometimes willing to deal with hobbyists, sometimes not. But suddenly you couldn’t buy everything you needed (more or less) at one store.

      Radio Shack was a small regional chain in the northeast, and facing bankruptcy, when Tandy bought the chain about 1963. About 1970 or 1971 Tandy bought Allied, which was either mail order or with a few stores. Probably better source of parts (I think they had an industrial catalog at that point), they covered the same territory as Radio Shack and the like. But it didn’t last long, soon an anti-trust ruling forcing Tandy to spin off Allied.


      1. Ahh. Thank you for correcting me. I didn’t know Lafayette stayed independent, and I wasn’t fully aware of the purchases in the order Tandy made them. When I came back from Vietnam in ’69 I kind of quit building stuff. I became an armchair ham, and, since the Army taught me to program, I was more into computers and being a hippie…

    2. It’s gonna be about 1962, my friend’s father drove us both to Allied Radio, 100 N. Western Ave, Chicago. We each bought a walkie talkie kit and spent the next week or so working on ’em, learning the components, learning to solder.

      That was truly a formative experience for us — we were 10years apiece and still are in touch. The place was like a wonderland — I’d spent enough time looking through their catalogs to be able to recognise a few things.

      Anyways, that kit cost me $9.95 in ’62. In today’s dollars, that’s something over $80. The CB rig I dreamed of was $129, or $1,037 today. I mention this just for perspective. On the flipside a $35 Baofeng handheld today would have cost $4.44. Except that that item would have been science fiction then.

      Guess my point is that hobbyists/hackers a few decades back must have been an elite crowd. Ain’t like today where they let anybody in :)

  25. In 2011, I ran the most profitable store by gross margin in the entire RS system. I also sent in the tip to HaD when the mass terminations started before the bankruptcy was declared.

    The single most profit producing item in the entire RS store, far more than phones, is batteries.

    RS batteries are rebranded Duracell pieces, and are simply the best way for the stores to be profitable.

    If they sold nothing but components batteries, they would easily float their business. If they have removed the requirement to quadruple document everything that the computer already tracks at 100% accuracy, and allow the associates to actually focus on product knowledge and customer service. I might seriously be tempted back! Of all of my retail management experience, RadioShack and The Men’s Wearhouse stand above all!

  26. As others have noted, I would also like a local alternative for when I am in a pinch that is not RS. Nostalgia from the 80s aside, it has steadily gone downhill and the upselling was awful. No, I do not need a phone or a battery at an inflated rate.
    I do have an interesting idea for a project from this, though…

  27. Radio Shack has been incredibly mythologized.

    They sold parts, but that wasn’t their primary purpose. If they didn’t sell other stuff, they’d not have stores everywhere. People with an interest got jobs there, because like any retail the hours could be flexible, so why not work in a nominally connected place? Besides, I gather employees got discount, the better to buy what Radio Shack sold. So chances were good the guy did know something, though I don’t think the store was paying for knowledgeable staff.

    People forget, in 1971 the average home had little electronics. A tv set, an am or maybe am/fm radio or two, maybe a stereo. It was the solid state age, but just barely. Within five years, you could get digital watches and clocks, pocket calculators, and computers. Radio Shack was there to sell you the new stuff. It could sell to hobbyists, but since it was in that nearby mall, it was much more accessible for Joe Average than the stores aimed at hobbyists. So someone wanting a shortwave radio to just listen to the BBC could get it without leaving familiar territory. They could get that CB set or stereo without having to be a hobbyist. All kinds of things came along, sampling keyboards, exotic microphones, good portable tape decks, even cellphones eventually. It was endless, and Radio Shack had it. Not the only place, but if you were in East Podunk, so long as there was a Radio Shack, you could see it live and buy it. Unless you had a specialty shop, Radio Shack was it for a long time. Otherwise, you’d buy what the local department store carried.

    Radio Shack was a popularizer, not necessarily the first place to carry something new, but an accessible place. We bought the stuff too, we already knew about the store, so when we needed a stereo, why not buy there? The expensive things I bought early, headphones, speakers, a tape deck, a few computers, I bought at Radio Shack, I had the catalog, got the flyers, bought when there was a sale.

    Selling that new technology to Joe Average meant the chain could afford to stock those parts.

    But other stores came along, Radio Shack was no longer the only game in town. But the dazzle also faded. Getting my TI LED digital watch in 1976 was big thing, but forty years later, new electronic gadgetry is commonplace, even if the specifics change. Electronics is mainstream, it means “gadgets” rather than “electronic parts”.

    Yes, Radio Shack got rid of the catalog, and stopped carrying their own brands. But everything else changed too. The past can’t be resuscitated. The model is gone, as is the chance to allocate space for parts. They can be a small hobby chain, but don’t expect a store in every neighbourhood. And that’s assuming the owners are willing to have less profit.

    Parts were viable, or allowed to be a profit loss, so long as the other items sold.

    Most of the old parts stores are gone. Hobby stores still exist, but are less common. There used to be a few here downtown, now those that remain are in the suburbs. All kinds of things have happened or changed, so why can Radio Shack resurrect itself as some newfangled hobby shop? Maybe some newcomer can do it, but it won’t happen because people at home think it should.


  28. Want radio-shack to be relevant to hobbyists again? Have two or three vending machines in the back stocked with reels and tubes of passives and a selection of IC’s picked for maximum application coverage. (a good search and ordering kiosk would be nice as well) Or partner with someone like Shapeways to add a “print at Radioshack” option. I’d LOVE it if they had an onsite PCB mill or etcher. Share a laser or water-jet between stores and “print” parts for people on demand. Etc.

    Basically, they have enough retail locations to cater to “instant gratification” and get customers to happily pay a premium for it. A lot of local maintenance guys would fall in love with them as well.

    1. Skip the store. Lose the cellphones and most of the consumer electronics. Radioshack will never be competitive in that market.

      Move into mall kiosks or small corners in the back of other stores. Surround it with those vending machines you were talking about… lots of them. All your components go in there. Maybe even place a few on the outside of the mall.. 24×7 access! A locked cabinet in the middle of the kiosk can contain a few items that don’t fit in the vending machines. You have to show up when an employee is present to buy that stuff though. Only staff the kiosk duing weekends or maybe weeknight evenings. Only whenever the mall actually is busy. Sell more over the internet. Offer free delivery to the local kiosk.

  29. I worked at Radioshack too, and as I see it, in the 90s, people stopped buying components, if it’s not selling, there’s little point in stocking it. This is back when they had like a 8 foot tall by 6 foot wide wall of just ICs, most of them logic chips, like 7400 series etc. So they started discontinuing the lowest selling parts. Many stores might not sell any IC for months. The problem then is that if you dropped the component that someone comes looking for, they don’t come back the next time when they need a different one. Around the same time they were peaking on cell phones, “selling more cell phones than everyone else combined” and “selling more PCS phones than Sprint” so at the time, the money was in phones, it was a growth market, since few had them and everyone wanted them. Radioshack stock was over $70 a share. Then the cell phone companies consolidated, and went from a large number of regionals to the now 4 major companies.
    After radioshack had basically disconnected from having parts as a major part of their business, the maker movement started up, and cell phone market penetration reached the point where most sales had to be made to people who already had them, and most were locked into 2 year contracts already. Also the major carriers all opened many branded stores, whether company owned or independent dealers, so radioshack became less and less of a place where people went to shop for phones.
    They tried to get back into maker business at the end, but between having too many stores to keep stocked with relatively low sales volume stock, and online competition, and the fact that most makers didn’t even know they were stocking the parts, it just never took off.
    The bankruptcy did allow them to dump the high rent stores, that kind of rent couldn’t be made without being supported by the volume of cell phone sales. The small parts and cables are the high margin items, but the problem is selling enough of them. Computers and TVs were very low margin, they made for impressive sales numbers when you sold some, but they made very little for the company.
    I don’t know of any time when a store should have only had a monster cable option for HDMI, there were always at least 2 tiers of products, and likely 3 in those kinds of lines, but some managers kept the lower priced items in the stockroom to try to force sales of the higher priced ones, oblivious to the fact that the profit on the lower priced item might be the same or even higher, and losing a sale meant no profit. District managers were so cell phone focused they didn’t even know this was happening.
    Saying that microcenter is the replacement is somewhat ludicrous. Microcenter only has 25 stores, only 1 of which is in the western half of the US.
    Retail can be very hard if you can’t find something to offer that no one else has, and that people will buy at a level that makes it cost effective to stock. Some say they should carry 3d printers, but even now, doing that so you could go to a random store and find one means with ~1700 stores, they’d have to buy several thousand, send them to stores where the employees don’t know about them, and if they don’t sell, take a loss on them. a $199 3d printer is going to be low margin, you can bet that monoprice one is, looking at it, even though it’s monoprice branded, it’s excluded from their 15% all monoprice items code, as well as their 10% off your entire order code. It’s probably sold near cost in order to sell filament.

    The maker market is still going to be a minority market, most people don’t even know it exists. They haven’t heard of this site, or makerfaire, or arduino, raspberry pi, maybe they have heard of 3d printing, but they don’t know much about it, or have any idea what they personally would do with it.

    Parts were never low margin or sold at a loss. they were some of the highest % margin items, the problem was not selling enough volume to be worth the cost of the space(rent, utilities, payroll, etc). They are small, but if a wall of them only sells a few a year, it doesn’t work. A vending machine is even more expensive, you’d have to sell a certain volume to make any sense at all, outside a hackerspace, I can’t think of anywhere it would have a chance of working. The same with a 3d printing service, right now it’s unlikely that many could be supported nationwide, when it still takes hours to print anyway, and it would be competing with online services that aren’t trying to place and keep maintained nearly 2000 printers in places where most may sit idle 99% of the time.

    1. I kept coming back when they didn’t have what I was looking for. But then they never had the next component either! I came back because there was nowhere else to go.

      My interest was always radio stuff. They had most of the parts to build a radio. But… never the inductors. Well.. when I was a kid they did sell a single pack with an assortment of inductors. Unmarked inductors.. and nothing one could use to measure them…

      Even if they just sold a single selection of ferrite stick that would have enabled dozens of interesting projects.

      What was the point of buying anything if I was pretty much gauranteed that there would be at least one part I have to get via mail order? Might as well just go to Mouser for the whole thing!

      1. Yes. They would follow the big trends, so you could get some parts to build a tv satellite receiver one year, but likely they didn’t stock everything. Or they’d add interesting ICs like that text to speech IC, but there was no context. And when the next catalog came out, it would be gone, replaced with some equally exotic part (though that meant the old was cleared out, at great prices).

        Maybe it was different in the US, but I could never rely on parts at Radio Shack. Of course I had other local sources, but I remember needing some op-amps late on Saturday, and paying the premium price to finish the project that weekend.


  30. “In addition, the company wants to engage in STEM for schools.”

    Anybody else reminded of how Heathkit supposedly exited the kit business because they wanted to focus entirely on the education market? Did anybody here ever see Heathkit on one of their school textbooks? Is school just a place that old hobbyist companies go to die?

    1. I thought they were going for things like microprocessor trainers, which had been successful I gather. In 1971 they sold some very exotic kits related to the MIT radiation lab manuals. So I assumed thy were going after the college or industrial training market.


  31. If radioshack really wanted my business, they would have to keep some component stock (something sorely lacking for the past 6-10 years in this area)

    None of the Los Angeles stores ever seemed to have anything but base level connectors, resistors, caps, etc. in stock.

    A drawer full of some more common IC’s and maybe some interesting kits, and I would probably be in there 2-3 times a week.

  32. I don’t care if Radio Shack is back or not because I can get components cheaper from Mouser or Digikey any day of the week. It is a no brainer that you can’t get parts cheaper at Radio Shack because they have to pay for expensive rent and won’t let you shop because a pushy salesperson always says, “Can I help you find anything?” because they are really trying to get you to buy something and to get you out of their store. When you buy a part at Radio Shack, the part you buy has an inflated cost because you are paying their rent. No one here has talked about their web presence which should be examined. Radio Shack lost a lot of markets like television antennas that sat on top of your roof because everyone has cable now. They lost the computer market because no one buys Tandy’s now. Everything had to be rebranded as Tandy which I felt was tacky advertising for Radio Shack.

    What you should ask is, “What has Radio Shack done lately?” Then you can post about it.

  33. RS allowed you to go buy electrical components instead of ordering them or sourcing them from scrap.. I’m still trying to figure out how this is fascist or whatever ‘not in my backyard’ types are calling it..

  34. As a ham radio operator, I often think that Radio Shack shot themselves in the foot when they distanced themselves from electronic do-it-yourself types and amateur radio operators like myself. If they want my business again, I want to see actual radio equipment, and not just a CB device by Cobra, on the shelves. Right now, HRO is the only thing in my area and it’s nearly a two-hour drive to another state. Incidentally, I actually hate HRO and refuse to shop there. To that end, if they will step and do more with amateur radio, they will have my business, and that of many others in my area, as we are all forced to either drive south two hours or order online. I hope that Radio Shack has learned from this previous transgression, but I am not holding my breath.

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