The Return of RadioShack?

We’ve been following the ups and downs of Radio Shack for a while now, and it looks like another chapter is about to be penned in the storied retailer’s biography – and not Chapter 11 bankruptcy this time.

According to the ARRL website and major media reports, up to 50 of the 147 US locations of HobbyTown, the brick-and-mortar retailer of RC and other hobby supplies, will soon host a “RadioShack Express” outlet. Each outlet will be up to 500 square feet of retail space devoted to electronic components that would be of use to HobbyTown’s core customer base, as well as other merchandise and services.

HobbyTown locations in Mooresville, North Carolina, and Ontario, Ohio, will be among the first stores to get the RadioShack Express treatment. Current employees of the franchisees will staff the store-within-a-store, which will be stocked with RadioShack merchandise purchased by the store. Stores with Express outlets will have special RadioShack branding inside and out to attract customers. There’s talk of the deal being extended chain-wide if the pilot program goes well.

Back from the Ashes?

This is obviously great news for the beleaguered electronics retailer that was once a neighborhood fixture. True, its parts selection was often less than complete, more so in recent years than in the chain’s heyday in the mid-1970s and early 1980s. And it’s true that prices were often astronomical compared to buying online. But on a Sunday afternoon, The Shack was a lifesaver for that last minute part needed to finish a project, and the premium was well worth the convenience. Watching the decline of the chain and seeing stores disappear one by one was a slow, sad process, so that makes this seems like an unqualified positive development.

But is it? On the face of it, there’s a lot of synergy between the HobbyTown offerings and what could be stocked in a RadioShack Express. I’ve never actually visited a HobbyTown myself — I plan to fix that now that I know I’ve got an outlet nearby, even if it doesn’t appear to be on the list of 50 early Express locations — so I can only go by what I see listed online for merchandise. But a store that sells every conceivable part for RC cars and planes, drones, model rockets, and STEM-related toys and kits seems a likely place to find customers for RadioShack’s offerings.

It won’t be clear until someone sees one of these Express kiosks first hand and reports back, but it seems like we might see something like the old “cabinet o’ components” that was found in the back of the most recent incarnation of RadioShack retail stores, along with a few shelves full of things like solder, wire, and tools. There may also be some items in the Arduino-Pi space, which would be really exciting, although that might run afoul of existing HobbyTown offerings. Still, one-stop shopping of everything from servos to MOSFETs would be a huge win for electronics hobbyists.

Not the Cell Phones Again!

But there may be cause for concern. Reports are that RadioShack Express locations will also offer services such as cell phone repairs. Dipping a toe into the cell phone market seemed to be the beginning of the end for RadioShack the first time through, and by the time it was clear to everyone that the chain was on death’s door, it was hard to go into a RadioShack store without being bombarded by cell phone sales pitches. To be brutally frank, I don’t take the early inclusion of cell phone repairs as an encouraging sign of the long-term viability of the RadioShack Express concept. Do we really need another place that fixes cell phones? The areas that HobbyTown stores tend to locate are rife with places that fix phones already, so I just don’t see the point. And it just smacks of the bad old days of RadioShack.

Still, I’m cautiously optimistic that this is a positive development for RadioShack, and I think it’s a win for electronics hobbyists overall. I’ll be keeping my eye on my local HobbyTown for the return of that iconic RadioShack logo, and looking forward to the day that I can pay a buck for a resistor again. Until then, if any readers happen to be near one of the combined locations when they open next week, we’d love a boots-on-the-ground report. Post your observations in the comments below, and pix or it didn’t happen.

[via r/amateurradio]

117 thoughts on “The Return of RadioShack?

  1. It isn’t going to work, RadioShack buy their components from the main distributors DigiKey and Mouser etc. They package them in RadioShack bags and add their markup. Now in addition further markup will need to be added for HobbyTown. All that will happen is that they will price themselves out of the Market resulting in poor sales and HobbyTown concluding that hobby electronics is not a viable market to be in.

    RadioShack has nothing compelling that adds any value to the purchase, HobbyTown would have been better off creating their own electronics section and cutting out the RadioShack middle man. They can just as easily buy components from Mouser as RadioShack can. They would also do better partnering with someone like Adafriuit or SparkFun that have gained a strong following with hobbyists. These two companies while somewhat highly priced at least add value to the purchase with their project ideas, code libraries and the community they have around them that helps justify the higher prices.

    As for the cell phone bit, well it seems RadioShack will never learn, HobbyTown is an ummm, Hobby shop you numbskulls, people don’t collect cell phones for a hobby, they sew, paint, glue and solder things together.

      1. Yes but 99 other people don’t, so their offering is minimal as it represents a tiny part of their turnover. They long ago concluded that parts are not a core part of their business and concentrate on other more popular lines. I predict the same thing happening here, HobbyTown are going to sell a handful of switches and reels of solder to grandad that wants to repair his model railroad. They will soon conclude that beads, paints and flower pressing kits sell much faster and that RadioShack stuff is wasting valuable space in their store. They will soon work out that selling Yankee candles would make far better use of that space.

        1. They will soon conclude that beads, paints and flower pressing kits sell much faster and that RadioShack stuff is wasting valuable space in their store.

          You might be thinking of Hobby Lobby, which is in the “arts & crafts” realm. HobbyTown caters more towards plastic models (cars, military vehicles, maybe some Gundum mechs, a la, Monogram, Revel, etc.), electric trains, and R/C planes, quadcopters, cars, and boats.

          It probably doesn’t change your conclusion a whole lot, but there is a little more overlap between Radio Shack and HobbyTown customers than with Hobby Lobby. Someone coming in to purchase a BLDC motor, ESC, and LiPo battery packs for their R/C car might also be the kind of person who might need to pick up a few resistors, electrolytic caps, and MOSFETs.

          1. Yes I can see that they are more focused on model building than crafts, so them having electronics is a better fit for them than Hobby Lobby. I still not convinced however of any value added by RadioShack.

        2. If their target is Grandad’s model railroad – which is quite possible for Hobby Town – there may be a bit more sales there than you think. The last model train show I took my son to had one crew who couldn’t stop talking about how they were using a Raspberry Pi to connect to their phones over Bluetooth to send commands to their trains by DCC. The train also had some sort of wireless camera setup transmitting pictures to a monitor in real time. They may have had an Arduino and a motor shield in there too.

    1. The final retail markup should be about the same no matter who sells the parts.

      But I quit buying from RadioShack long before they died. They only offered base line parts and never got into what’s needed for many modern projects. As technology moved on their inventory became a modern silicone equivalent of vacuum tube inventory.

      1. Yes, but where else are you going to find that germanium transistor you’ve been looking for to fix your 1956 Regency radio? :D
        In all seriousness, you are correct about the markup. Radio Shack added their biggest markup on components at the store level when I worked there for a few years around 1990. It literally only cost $0.05 – $0.10 wholesale to get most of the stuff that retailed at $1 – $2 into the store. I doubt that this changed much over the years. Talk about scalping the customers…

        1. It’s not “scalping the customers”. It’s the reality of running a retail operation (renting a storefront, paying employees, putting 5 cent components in individual packaging, etc.)

          1. And don’t forget paying sales tax. The omission of sales tax on mail-order / online purchases gives them a 7-10% advantage over local shops. Why that was ever legal, I have no clue. I guess b/c it’s harder to enforce?

            The convenience of online shopping is there, and it’s real, too. But an 8% discount is hard to beat.

          2. [Elliot Williams] that is changing with a recent decision by U.S. Supreme Court.
            Online companies now have to pay the Sales Tax of the destination State.

          3. Regarding taxes, for the record Oregon has no sales tax, and online sales hurt retailers in the same way here. RadioShack stores had the same problems here, with the same empty stores.

      2. Not quite….

        Scenario 1, HobbyTown buys 10c part from Mouser, marks it up to $1.
        Scenario 2, RadioShack buys 10c part from Mouser, sells it to HobbyTown for 75c, HobbyTown marks it up to $1.50.

        I know what I would do if I were HobbyTown, RadioShack has no added value for anything other than nostalgia for their older customers. They don’t have a brand following like Beats, Samsung or Sonos, they don’t have a clear brand identity like Adafruit. RadioShack is a tainted brand, it is known as a grotty phone store by young people (if they know it at all), considered an overpriced supplier of random electronics by most. The only thing the brand has going for it is the nostalgia of older generation that remembers to early days when it was an exciting place to go. Clearly those older folks who still long after the RadioShack of old are not regular buyers of electronics, as those of us who are regular purchasers have long since found better places to buy from.

          1. At least Adafruit and SparkFun provide free literature, tutorials, and libraries to use the things they sell. Radio Shack, well, I used to make fun of the slogan they used to answer the phone with: “Radio Shack, you’ve got questions, we’ve got blank looks!”

          2. These places sell things that I would have no idea where to get otherwise (breakout boards come to mind). Maybe there are places that are cheaper that I could save $2 here and there but I’d end up ordering from three different suppliers. Which would probably mean buying from Amazon, which I am happy to avoid in order to keep places like Adafruit and Sparkfun alive.

        1. A couple other possibilities:

          Scenario 3: Hobby Town might simply be paying Radio Shack to license the logos and is handling the rest of the distribution on their own side.
          Scenario 4: Hobby Town considers working through Radio Shack useful in order to have their database of what parts sold and what’s worth stocking, since this is a new market for them.

          1. #3 is interesting. RadioShack is an iconic American brand. Sure it’s had a rocky go in recent years but many of us have a long and positive history with the brand. You might be right, Matt Cramer.

      3. “No thank you. No thank you. No thank you, too. NO. OK, you win, I’ll just go home and order it online. Sorry to take up your time.” The patented RadioShack experience!

        I remember in the mid 80s if I needed a floppy disk I could pay over 1 dollar at RadioShack for a regular disk, or wait until Monday and pay fifty cents for a high density disk at the local computer store.

        The local electronics supply isn’t open as many hours, but they’re open a few hours on Saturday. And they have useful parts.

        The cheap batteries were cheap, though. There is no denying it.

      4. the last 10 years or so with radioshack, my largest issue was their inventory management, or more specifically, lack thereof.

        the staff shifted from component sales/help to cell phone sales, which meant that when they ran out of something in the component section, they rarely re-stocked it. i slowly stopped going to radioshack down the street, and started driving 1.5 hours out of my way to a fry’s that maintained a component inventory. it was never about the cost, it was always about getting the components the same day.

        the times i’ve been in my local hobby town(stopped going because r/c is an expensive hobby), they seem to understand the idea that availability is more important than cost, they also still embrace the hobby nature that radioshack started stepping away from.

    2. This is incorrect. RadioShack sources components directly from factories contracted to manufacture their components and other products. I know this because I was with RadioShack for many years.

      1. RadioShack stopped buying components direct from manufacturers many years ago. In the 1970’s and 80’s they had the sales volume to buy direct from TI an National Semiconductor. Apart from commodity items like resistors that are just were just purchased from Chinese manufacturers a majority came from the main distributors as they never had the volume for the manufacturers.

        Now that RadioShack has twice left suppliers with huge unpaid debts and are a tiny fraction of the size they were, no manufacturer is prepared to deal with them. They can only buy through the distribution channels, this is clearly shown in the court filings.

      2. Radio Shack also used to have a product engineering/design division for their Realistic and Optimus brand lines of audio and other electronic equipment. Dunno who they had manufacture all that. Did that go away with the end of Tandy computers?

        A major screwup by Radio Shack was when they changed their line of project boxes, but didn’t change their line of PCBs to fit the new boxes. Thus shelves were stocked with fancy new boxes and incompatible blank boards and protoboards – some of which had been hanging on the pegs for a decade or more. I’d even seen some boards with pads for 1960’s round metal can ICs. From the yellowing of the plastic and fading of the printing, those boards had been there for 40+ years.

        1. The Chinese factory that was a joint venture between Desay Group and RadioShack closed in 2011. From then on all products were either major brands or relabelled products produced by other manufacturers.

          1. @Darren: Strongly-stated arguments, but incorrect. You don’t like RadioShack. That’s OK. I like RadioShack and am happy to have more ways to buy their products.

          2. @re:tired you don’t seem to know much about the history of RadioShack. There is no RadioShack any more, RadioShack Corporation went bankrupt in 2015. Some assets of the company, most notably its trademark were sold to a new corporation called General Wireless. It has no manufacturing capabilities and if you look at the court filings you can see a list of their suppliers and those that have websites you can see the products that used to be sold by RadioShack being offered by the original manufacturers.

            General Wireless itself went into chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2017, it was forced to sell off all of their assets, the RadioShack trademarks were sold to Kensington Capital Holdings. General Wireless now licences the trademark from Kensington Capital Holdings in order to be able to trade under the RadioShack name. So the entity using the owners of the RadioShack name and the corporation using it are not related to the old Tandy RadioShack. There is no point in questioning if you like RadioShack or not as the only part left is the brand name. Are you seriously saying that because you liked the old Tandy RadioShack that you must now like the current company using the brand, even though it is just two two investment companies, Kensington Capital Holdings owning the brand rights and General Wireless that is owned by Standard General being the operating company.

            You seem to suggest because you once worked at RadioShack that you know a lot about it, but when did you leave because your information is way out of date.

        2. I had some Yamaha speakers that had failed under warranty bought at Incredible Universe. The Tandy service center said parts not available and gave a me a store credit for any Tandy division. I found a 100% identical set of Optimus speakers at Radioshack so I bought those instead. Sharp (calculators), Casio(keyboards and calculators), RCA(AV Equipment) and Philips(AV Equipment) also made products for Tandy that were rebranded Realistic or Optimus.

    3. You are absolutely right. The only advantage a brick and mortar shop has is a physical location. They need to realize that the value isn’t in selling parts but in the community of makers they can support in their neighborhood. To be successful they should host events and maybe even dedicate some space to be a hacker space or something. That’s what radioshack should have done years ago.

  2. If the product selection was made wisely it just might work. I was somewhat surprised when the local toy store just down the road became a Jaycar reseller (www.Jaycar.com.au) they have limited range but basic components switches connectors and tools works well with their model trains and RC cars and planes. Wire and solder and hand tools are useful for craft work. For basic hobby work it seems to be a good fit. It must be working for them as they have expanded their range over the last couple of years – thankfully no mobile phones …..

  3. It would be encouraging to see a comeback of the Radio Shack principle, but only if there is a complete and total change of the mindset running the show. If the same people at the top are in charge of the reborn Radio Shack, then HobbyTown may be in for a major disappointment when the expected sales that I’m sure the RS management promised not only don’t materialize but drive the normal HobbyTown crowd away, figuring that the HT management has lost it’s way by tying themselves to the RS boat anchor and jumping in the deep end. It could work, they may have a significant enough feel for the maker/hobbyists that they will stock in-demand, usable components not the junk they had in the drawers at the end. Maybe someone there knows just what tools would be useful to the average hobbyist and provide them at a reasonable price that those at the start of the maker journey can afford to get in. If you’re reading Hackaday then you’re most likely not at the beginner stage and you’re well aware of Digikey, Mouser and the plethora of other places to get parts for your projects. This may have to be a place where you pay a buck for 6 resistors but they’re in stock and available a short drive and not a 2-5 day shipping delay away. I’m an electronics engineer by trade, a ham and hobbyist when I’m not on the clock ( officially, don’t tell the boss ) and I have more professional-grade tools at my disposal that I care to think of. What I’m most concerned about is anyone who wants to try and get into making things and is looking for projects to begin with and build upon where they can be successful. At the end, RS failed in that respect despite the movement rocketing around them. I hope someone replaces the fools who sank the ship in the first place and puts someone in charge that can go to a Sparkfun or Adafruit or Seeed and put together a stocking program that anyone from the greenest beginner through an advanced hobbyist can find materials that teach and expand knowledge and advance the hobby. You never know, someday an engineer may get their start in the career by putting together kits from Radio Shack. I did.

    Hey Radio Shack, if you’re listening I’ll take the job. Put a maker in charge and see what happens. I couldn’t do worse than the last fools in charge.

    1. But wasn’t RadioShack(TM) bought out by a cell phone provider (Sprint?)?
      If a cell phone provider is in charge of the RadioShack brand, I can see them trying to wiggle cell sales into the “Express”.
      But, maybe, just maybe, enough of the old RadioShack management has “died off” that Hobby Town was able to have some creative license in writing the contract. (I hope!)

      1. In Canada they were bought by Bell (but renamed to “the source”), so the store primarily tries to (up)sell Bell cell phones, Bell Internet, and Bell TV… Right next to the Bell stores in the same malls, and a dozen other cell re-sellers which also carry Bell services.

      2. No, RadioShack Corporation went bankrupt. The RadioShack brand was sold to a new corporation called General Wireless, that was created by Standard General for the purpose of trading under the RadioSack name. Their business plan was to set-up RadioShack stores within Sprint stores. That failed hence the 2017 bankruptcy and there is now an ongoing court case between General Wireless and Sprint where General Wireless has claimed that Sprint did not hold up their part of the deal.

        As part of the 2017 bankruptcy proceedings General Wireless was forced to sell the RadioShack trademark to Kensington Capital Holdings.

  4. I gather RadioShack was kinda like what Maplins was like:
    Me: “Can I have 2x 10uF polymer film capacitors from the audio components section please?”
    Them: “We have one in stock”
    Me: “Ah, when do you stock more?”
    Them: “we only stock one”
    Me: “But human ears and soundsystems come in pairs, why not these audio capacitors?”

    .

    Same with Halfords:
    Me: “I’d like to buy these brakes, do you supply pads?”
    Them: “No, you get them online”
    Me: “So what do I do in an emergency if my pads fail”
    Them: “You go online and order some”
    Me: “So I leave here, crash into people by accident, go to jail for manslaughter, wait for release, order the brakes, go back to jail for manslaughter because my brakes haven’t arrived”
    (This conversation actually happened, also I tossed the brakes onto the counter to make a point and left. I ordered brakes online that has replacement pads locally… in an emergency)

    1. No, worse, you would walk into the store and one of 3 spotty teenagers would jump on you and ask you if you what cellphone you have, and offer to change your contract for another one. You ask for a resistor, they would just usher you to the parts drawers and let you find it for yourself. You take it to the checkout where if you did find it you go to pay. They would charge you $5 and ask for your name and address, then promptly try and sell you a phone contract again, refusing to complete the sale until they had tried their damnedest to sell you a contract.

      Half of the people walked out without what they wanted, of the other half most would be so irritated by the experience they would never return. A few would get conned into buying a contract and would have buyers remorse afterward and never return. Only a tiny number of people were happy with their purchase and ever went back.

      1. That mirrors my experience almost exactly, except there was also the one know-it-all guy loudmouth that was actually pretty good with circuits, but his knowledge stopped just before 555’s…. The third time I was in there looking for parts for a microcontroller project only to have him try and talk me into doing it with 50 $2 transistors, I stopped going.

      2. In the ’90s, when Radio Shack still carried a good variety of parts, I was often there getting supplies for one-off projects at work. The employees started sending customers with electronic questions to me if I happened to be in the store!

        1. Amazon must have copied the “free labor” idea from them. The one were one gives reviews (book blurb fail, with a bunch of happy, happy, joy, joy), and asked a bunch of questions, not needed if the product documentation was better (and accessible).

      1. I suppose you mean they don’t “fail” because they wear out gradually as they are expected to do.

        True.

        But.. on some rare occasions there can be defects which cause the pad to actually break apart under the stresses of normal operation. I would call that “fail”.

        1. I would call the “warning device” (that strip of metal that scrapes the disk when the pad is worn) rusting off and therefore not sounding a warning is also a failure.
          That has happened twice (different vehicles) with me.

        2. To confirm your comment about defect based failure (and to generally comment on other things to everyone):

          I can vouch for the defects based failure (Hence my concern and annoyance with halfords, p.s. I’m on about pushbikes tho):

          Going down what we call the Apsley to Brickhill road with side flowing traffic at the bottom flowing towards Woburn sands I’d thought I had a blowout but it was the back brake* disintegrating.
          I slowed with the front brakes** as a fallback and proceeded to Bletchley Halfords where they stock the pads for the brake kit installed at the time.
          The replacements were sintered instead… and hadn’t failed before needing replacement.
          Eventually the valve in the brake leaver failed (became gummy) and I replaced it with a larger surface area disk brake.

          Unlike that one-brake-wonder Londoner: I like to have a full set of working brakes, both because if one fails, I’ve got a backup and if I need to stop quickly… I can (Unless I Stoppie by accident and still crash!)

          *Yep I was using only the back brake to control speed. not stop

          **did I mention I’ve got a bike with 80cm tall down-hill forks? These forks stopped the bike from wanting to throw me over the bars!
          It is now a 1KW E-Bike!….

  5. Geeze, why don’t they get into shoe repair too while they are at it? I hate to see a former great brand name destroyed like this. I totally agree with the author about the cell phones…it is the beginning of the end…again…or Radio Shack failure 2.0.

    1. It is usually a lot easier to find a power MOSFET on a Saturday than to find a place to get a shoe repaired even on a weekday. Not many people even try to get a shoe repaired anymore. I don’t know if it is a good idea or not, but it would at least seem plausible.

      Especially if they offered custom lights and Arduino inserts.

  6. Thanks to a Google alert, I discovered Hackaday and this story today. As President of HobbyTown I would like to share a little bit about our stores to contribute to this thread…

    Each HobbyTown store is a locally owned and operated franchise store that pays only a 3% royalty fee to the corporate offices in return for operational support and a key source of product supply…97% of the sales stay in the local community. The RadioShack Express program is optional for each franchisee, they can manage the inventory selection and space commitment to their preferences.

    The HobbyTown brand is often confused with Hobby Lobby, but our our merchandise selection and customer base could not be more different. We specialize in radio control, hobby games, model railroading, scale models and specialty toys among many other traditional (and non-traditional) hobbies. The RadioShack product mix of electronic components is certainly new to us, but should be a good complement to our RC and model railroading merchandise. Our RadioShack Express early adopters will start with a relatively small inventory mix and see where the consumer demand leads in each market to expand accordingly.

    Rest assured, HobbyTown (for those of you that are familiar with our brand) is not abandoning our core hobby lines to become cell phone stores. A select few locations may adopt the Fix It Here mobile device repair services offered by RadioShack as an added value for customers that already utilize our RC and/or model train repair services, but we are not planning to enter the cell phone sales arena.

    We look forward to learning more about the electronics hobby enthusiasts and finding out how we can best serve and support you in each local HobbyTown market.

      1. P.s. I just checked HobbyTown.com and could not find a store in the state of Minnesota.
        Nor did I see a map showing store locations. Is HobbyTown a regional franchise?

          1. Just so you know [bob wilke], I did type “St. Paul, Minnesota” into the store search with the default setting of 150 miles, the St. Cloud store (77 miles) SHOULD have come up.
            It would have missed Duluth, (152 miles).

    1. Bob, please forget about Radio Shack and just stock the most popular items from Adafruit or Sparkfun. They already knows what sells and what does not. Radio Shack has proven that they don’t know. Radio Shack killed themselves off when they alienated the hobbyist and went into consumer electronics. Seems like a good reason NOT to put them in a Hobby Store. If you want to know what sells, look a MicroCenter’s electronics offerings. I bet most of them are not even sold by Radio Shack.

      1. ” Radio Shack has proven that they don’t know. Radio Shack killed themselves off when they alienated the hobbyist and went into consumer electronics. ”

        Then there would have been no Tandy* computer centers, or Realistic brand.

        *There was Apple,Atari,Commodore with their “gaming” image.

      2. Umm.. when did you last enter a RadioShack? 1999?

        They stocked the common items from those companies for the last several years before the meltdown! They must have had some sort of deal worked out with them because they sold them at the regular price. It was a great fit actually. Items in 1/10th the quantity that one would get from the online Chinese shops for 10 times the price!

        I can’t for the life of me figure out how that strategy didn’t turn things around for them!

        They even had little free-for-the-taking how-to guides for building those things into projects that looked like they might have outsourced the writing to Make magazine.

      1. Yes, other than Tandy Leather, hobby shops meant independent stores, selling a mix of plastic models, RC vehicles, pieces to make things, probably some toys. Fifty years ago there were a few nearby, certainly at least one within walking range. The downtown ones are long gone, a few remain in the suburbs.

        I remember when Popular Electronics had an article about hobby shops, a place to get specialized tools, and tiny drill bits for circuit boards, and things like plastic and brass tubing, and small sheets of useful metal. Like Radio Shack, likely not the best prices, but you could get the things without having to make a large order, or buy endless brass tubing, and it was local. When I wanted a telegraph set, to learn morse code, it was a hobby shop that I went to in 1970, an adventure in itself.

        Even the toy department of ä department store downtown had a reasonable hobby section fifty years ago, though I can’t remember if it was within the toy department or somewhat separate

        Hobby shops should still have some appeal, I fear RadioShack won’t help much.

        Michael

    2. I’m not entirely sure what the RadioShack brand is supposed to bring to all of this, but I am slightly surprised at how unknown HobbyTown appears to be. I don’t model railroads or RC (beyond recently a few drones) and there is still quite a lot of things there I buy, like general-purpose “build small things” – files, resins, precision screwdrivers, exotic oils and silicone compounds, shrink tube.. If asked before reading this if they stocked basic plain components like resistors or caps, I probably would have said “I don’t know, I haven’t really asked, but maybe – it seems like the kind of thing they might have”. Microcontroller parts and accessories like arduino/pi might seem like a slightly shorter jump, especially since they already stock servos, brushless DC motors and drivers, Li* batteries and chargers (hey, there’s no law saying you *have* to use all that for RC), but on the other hand that’s a very cost-sensitive fields – much more so than it in RC which generally seems willing to pay for high quality – *and* it would really require stocking base components anyway. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes, especially as the crossover between RC and general electronics/microcontrollers grows.

    3. If they’re going to stock protoboards and blank PCBs with pre-drilled mounting holes – and project boxes, make sure the boards fit the boxes. Radio Shack *didn’t do that* when they brought in an all new line of project boxes without changing the ‘vintage’ designs of their boards.

      I found that out a few years ago when I built a dual fan, dual temp, series-parallel switching* cooling controller for a car. Bought the board and box then had to bodge things with a piece of perfboard and standoffs. Controller still worked of course but the insides were uglier than they needed to be.

      *Nicked the idea from a Peugeot that used two 12V single speed fans but got two speeds by switching the fans between series and parallel connection.

    4. Bob as someone who as shopped at your stores since the early 80s (I was an east park kid). I spent way too much of my allowance there on that perfect shade of olive drab or a d&d expansion. Do not let these people get you down! A smattering of ‘maker’ like parts, microcontrollers and basically ‘the back of the store radio shack’ would be a perfect sort of fit for your stores and your RC lines of stuff.

    5. Great to hear you’ll be carrying electronic components, and hopefully modules such as Adafruit and Sparkfun have. The only other local place around suburban Chicago, IL is Microcenter.

      I was at both local Hobbytowns in Schaumburg and St. Charles, IL recently, and got propellers and carbon composite tubes for my quadcopters. Too bad the stock of motors, batteries and electronics for quads is somewhat limited.

      Mr. Maloney, you stated “a store that sells every conceivable part for RC cars and planes, drones, model rockets, and STEM-related toys and kits” isn’t quite accurate. I would call it a sparse selection.

  7. I actually happened to stumble across a HobbyTown this weekend, in Buford, GA. And I was pleasantly surprised to find they they had a small wall display section of Radio Shack goods. I didn’t spend much time looking in detail, but I recall that they had a smattering of standard passive components, I recall seeing a photoresistor, a couple of kits, and tools like wire snips, soldering iron stations, etc. It was just one section of pegboard and a floor-level shelf, with a small Radio Shack logo placard above it, but now I kind of wish I’d taken a picture. :)

  8. About the only thing hams ever bought at RS was connectors for antennas and power. That was the extent. Then we found other electronics places like Dandretta which closed it’s stock transfer to A&J Distributors and now even that has fled the city.

    1. My first radio that didn’t have any fire damage at the time I bought it was a Radio Shack 2-meter mobile. It was a nice little radio! Ok, I got it used but somebody must have bought it at the Rat Shack. I only don’t have it now because some other person liked it so much he busted my car window to have it for him/herself!

  9. another one for the list of great unacknowledged paradoxes in western thinking:
    * you can alleviate poverty without challenging the bourgeois
    * you can have peace without opposing imperialism
    * you can enhance walking without opposing cars
    * you can sell components without opposing cellphone salesmanship

    1. “* you can alleviate poverty without challenging the bourgeois”
      Which is clearly a paradox because we have already produced the maximum possible amount of wealth so the only way one can get more is to take it from someone else?

      “* you can have peace without opposing imperialism”
      Cause the last colony ship to land on your home soil was just yesterday right? Oh, this morning? My bad!

      “* you can enhance walking without opposing cars”
      I am the only person on the planet to have jogged a couple of miles last night AND drove to work this morning. I am SOOO special!

      “you can sell components without opposing cellphone salesmanship”
      Yeah… It’s just not as much fun to point out the stupidity of a statement when the author probably meant it in gest.

    2. The stereotypical bourgeois person is a cobbler (shoemaker) who owns his own shop and tools, and has an apartment above the shop. This person is lower-middle class, but a master of his own trade, beholden to none.

      You might have a point about cellphone sales, though. You can’t sell cellphones without being gregarious. And gregarious people have a hard time selling anything to introverts.

  10. I just want to see local hobby and/or hadware stores start carrying some components. Most of them probably have franchising rules that prevent this but I would just have them buy a few shelves of common parts, arduinos, servos, etc… off of sites like Deal Extreme, BangGood and even FleaBay. Forget having their own (or any) brand. Just buy the same stuff we are already waiting for shipping (often over a month), stick it on a shelf where we can have it immediately and mark it up by a REASONABLE amount. At least by any definition of reasonable that I would accept it still comes out way cheaper than the Rat Shack ever even dreamed of.

    Yeah, I know, supporting good quality brands like Adafruit, SparkFun, etc.. is important too. Their stuff is higher quality and they do a tremendous service to the community in writing libraries that make our accessories easy to develop with. I do buy from them from time to time (in large part only because I want to support them). If I had to use them as my main parts suppliers though.. I’d be building maybe a couple small projects per year max. Everything would be on a breadboard too because I would be afraid to commit the parts to anything permanently.

    I’d be perfectly happy with RadioShack if they chose to do something like this. I don’t think they are capable of seeing the world in that way though…

    1. I agree.
      I wish Adafruit and/or Sparkfun could negotiate some shelf space at Home Depot, Hobbytown …or anywhere really.
      Brick and mortar retailers have got to leverage their only one big advantage…and that is, you can have it NOW.
      Sure…it might cost a bit more…but you can have it NOW.

    1. Well, Jeri Ellsworth made her own transistors on youtube, I don’t really know of many people using raw electronics, though.

      I usually demand at least some plastic packaging and tinned leads. Silkscreen is nice, too, because I’m not very organized.

  11. Here’s another idea that is probably better than a Rat Shack comeback.

    Hackerspaces start buying up all the old cigarette box vending machines. Stock them with boxes containing components. Proceeds restock the machine and any profit beyond that helps support the space. I’d place a container next to the machine for people to return the boxes. Most hackerspace budgets are tight. I bet more than half of them would even have volunteers making the boxes from scratch! It’s better for the space and the planet to reuse them.

    1. And because those “using” it will be “hackers”, they’ll do a web search and find all the many ways teens were able to get a free pack of cigs from the machines.

    2. Most places have these sorts of components available for free already, though, so that might be the last room with a market. ;)

      The hard part there isn’t getting access to the components, the hard part is keeping people from throwing them away for enough years until eventually somebody finds a use for them.

  12. This will most likely fail as well. Hiring ghetto idiots and hard selling cellphones and those stupid batteries were enough to drive even the sanest person away from their stores. They never seemed to actually hire anyone that knew anything about electronics. Honestly I am fine with the market shift. It wasn’t like paying 5-8x markup on everything in the store was super enticing anyway and lets not forget about the stupid/creepy phone number thing. There were many reasons to never go back and to only pay cash due to their lower rent ghetto locations with shady employees that seemed to only be there to hit on the thick ladies with unfullfilled promises of free cellphone minutes *back when that was a thing). Nope, as many others have said, they did it to themselves for a very very very long time. It would take something very special about this new incarnation to make me give a poop. Oh noes oh where will I find an unamplified Quasar tv antenna lol??!

    1. The job would have to pay around $25/hr to attract someone who has a basic knowledge of electronics (wild estimate based on my own biases) . Instead of the usual $12/hr they pay. Between the building lease and staffing costs, the mark-up would be pretty significant and people would complain it is too expensive and order stuff online.
      Compared to a store like Home Depot, the store might only have a small fraction of staff that is knowledgeable about DIY. But the store is big enough that at any given time there is at least one person that knows what they are doing. With RadioShack there might be only 3 clerks and a manager to cover 2 shifts. And it’s not clear if any of them know much about electronics.

  13. I’ll go out on a limb. The “Radio” Shack section will not carry 1N34A diodes, crystal high impedance earpieces, ferrite loopstick coils, or 365 pF poly variable capacitors… needed to make a radio… the gateway project that *really* brought kids into the hobby. I don’t see much future in today’s “make an LED blink” basic projects. The first time I hooked mine up and heard the interval music for Radio South Africa, I was hooked for life!
    Come to think of it, a revised, properly working Rocket Radio might be nice, too…

  14. At the end of the day, for most people RS will be a place whee you know you will pay more but you can get your stuff off the shelf, right away. I doubt to many people are going to fill their BOM’s for projects there. I think if they get the right mix of parts they will be an asset to have around. It would be nice if they found a niche.

  15. The thing with any business, is it starts out to fill a need (demand). You draw your customers from people interest in getting the products a quickly and conveniently as possible. Most people don’t like to hunt around, hoping to find some place that stocks what they want or need, or order it and wait, hoping that it arrives in good order, and actually is what they wanted, not have to deal with returning it, and starting all over. The person starting the business, see the need, and knows what to provide. If lucky, he can find like minded individuals to invest or partner, to grow the business. Some where down the line, the business grows to big, and those investing, don’t know or care about the business, or the goals, only the return on the money invested. At which point, it’s time to hire the professional business guys, with the fancy college degrees, an impressive resumes, who only know generic business, and profit, could care less about the business, the employees, or customers, just the cash machine, and how to more efficiently turn profit from it. Better profits, means higher salary on their next gig, if they can get out, before everything heads south, long as the numbers look good to investors, doesn’t matter what they did to get them.

    Radio Shack had it’s place, in the beginning, anyone interested in electronics, had few places to get parts or information, other than magazines and mail order. For me, I mostly salvaged my parts, not a lot of cash. Tough, and time consuming to find the right parts, or reasonably close. Electronics was a little like magic, combine the right parts, the right way, and you have a neat gadget. I was never impressed with the quality of RS parts, or products in general, compared to the stuff I scrounged up, their stuff was about as low as it gets, but the price was premium. When they went from isles of parts, tools, tools, and supplies, to assembled products, and you had to search yourself through what little they had left, I stopped going. That was all before home computers, internet, and cell phones. Really can’t see any benefit in bring that sour name into it. Electronics these days isn’t really component level for most people, SMD parts aren’t simple to work with. Most repair shops swap out the whole board, rather than replace a few components. A beginner, will mostly likely the ready made modules and assemblies, where they just need to run a few wires between. Doesn’t make sense to stock board level parts, hoping enough people have a desperate need of on or two of them, occasionally. Yeah, I’m a hoarder, save most anything I might use someday, plus when I order parts, I buy extras, since I may build more than one, or probably something similar.

  16. Dear RadioShack, you got your 20th chance…. your friends Commodore and Blockbuster are calling, they need to know if you will be at the reunion next year. PS, They asked if you had contact information for BestBuy.

  17. Gee. While this isn’t bad news (thanks…cellphones) I still kinda wish HobbyTown would carry 3d printer filament. The markup would be better (I’d pay a premium to avoid shipping/waiting several days when I usually just want something now.

  18. Radio Shack’s heyday was in the 1980’s. They had microcomputers down like a mofo. In fact my first computer was a TRS-80 Model I, Level II machine with EI, disks etc. Then a Tandy 1000. But they just walked away from the PC market too.

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