you’ve started reading this article, there’s a good chance you
got a look at the title. Because of that, I’m not sure this opening
question will be much of a surprise, but we’ll give it a shot…
would you buy in a Radio Shack store?
kind of a crazy question. And honestly, it really is one that
has puzzled me for several years.
I was younger, Radio Shack was more or less the technology store.
THE technology store. No Circuit City. No Best Buy. No
internet with free home delivery for qualifying purchases. There
was no app for that.
yet, even as THE technology store, we really didn’t utilize
or view technology in the same way as we do today. Again… just
think, no internet, and you get the idea. Being THE technology
store was, effectively, being a parts place. Funny enough, technology
really wasn’t the same specialty as, say, hardware. You would
occasionally think about Radio Shack, but there wasn’t a consistent
motivation or pressing need to head there.
first computer though was a Tandy. Again… it’s a generational
thing. Many people can note Tandy as a brand the same way others
recall Commodore 64… Atari or Intellivision… and the names change
but the beat goes on.
believe, to be technical, it was the TRS-80 Color model. And,
to really stretch the imaginations for some of you… many of the
games for it involved attaching a cassette player to the computer.
A cassette player/recorder. That was, in a very minor stretch
of the word, an essential piece of computer hardware. (And yet
some wonder why the Radio Shack Super Bowl commercial featuring
the 80s was funny to so many in ways that couldn’t be appreciated
beyond laughing at the VHS recorders.)
thing is… Radio Shack hasn’t been a computer store for quite some
time. At least not in the same way people thought of it as one
thirty years ago. And even then, it wasn’t really a computer store.
I mentioned, this was a store for all sorts of electronic devices
and equipment. And while there are memories to recapture, for
the most part we aren’t talking about THE place to be.
Beyond the Tandy brand, my guess is most people my age will associate
the store with remote-controlled vehicles. Start asking about
what else they sold, and you’re likely to get pauses and silence
as a response.
the thing is… my guess is most people wouldn’t be certain what
Radio Shack sells right now. That same thought applied five years
ago… even ten years ago…and maybe fifteen to twenty years ago.
Get past Tandy computers and remote controlled Christmas presents,
and that thought applied thirty years ago.
a comparison that might work -- For most Radio Shack is a computer
company basically the same way NAPA and other auto parts stores
are car dealerships.
that comparison runs deeper. Many folks will stop in NAPA to get
an air filter and wiper blades. But unless you really are working
on your own car, chances are good you don’t appreciate the full
inventory at NAPA or Advance Auto Parts or whatever. It’s a mystery
may not be perfectly accurate (or perfectly fair), but it does
drive the point home. Here’s another concept to get the head spinning…
you know that at Radio Shack they focus heavily on cell phones?
right there, that’s a problem. Not because they sell them… but
you could ask most people to name the top ten stores they would
go to for making a cell phone purchase and I do believe almost
every person would never put Radio Shack on their list. At all.
there’s another store having some troubles. But if I mention the
Craftsman line of tools and products, or maybe Kenmore, most of
you will at least nod.
the comparable brand or product or idea at Radio Shack? Batteries?
Go to their
web site. I defy you to name another company
that breaks down product categories and includes batteries so
prominently. Seriously, there it is -- Cell Phones -- Electronics
-- Hobby -- Batteries -- there on the home page. By a reasonable
deduction, Batteries is one of their top four product concepts.
love here. And yet, I still have a soft spot for Radio Shack.
I like the company. I have fond memories of purchases made at
their stores. I want them in my neighborhood. I just for the life
of me think of why I would stop by frequently.
few months ago, Terry and I sat down to watch some episodes of
King of the Nerds. It’s a very goofy, somewhat unpolished,
definitely not for a huge market, competition-reality show on
TBS. (Season two airing now! I like the
events and production efforts much more so far this season, but
the contestants aren’t nearly as fun (or accessible) as they were
with the first group.) Curtis Armstrong and Robert Carradine host
it, and they do a really good job. It’s a fun show. Got some good
twists. And it works great with the network’s The Big Bang
of the show involves where the contestants stay during the competition…
and that building includes a resource center branded and stocked
by Radio Shack. I thought that was a great job by the
company of getting involved to raise some awareness.
now, we offer up the news that they plan to close
an additional 500 stores.
the people that do shop at Radio Shack already know about the
cell phones and the batteries.
yet… perhaps I’m not their target consumer.
is… it would appear that a company with a pretty
decent 2014 Super Bowl ad and a room in Nerdvana, is having
something more serious than the term troubles can really define.
Because I’m not certain what their troubles are. And if most of
the consumers across this country aren’t sure what they would
buy in a Radio Shack store, then I’m not alone.
eighties can call. We can all share a laugh. But… do you know
where the nearest Radio Shack location is to your home?
hope these efforts work. I thought the ad was really good overall…
creative, funny, and showed an awareness of the brand image with
no posturing or grand ideas. I think the association with King
of the Nerds is fantastic… a good chunk of their products
are geared toward do-it-yourself people in the -- forgive the
expression -- nerd world.
escaping the past… especially in technology… isn’t all that easy
~ ~ ~
assembling this article, I decided to take a visit to the Radio
Shack closest to my home… about a twenty minute drive on the highway.
wanted to make certain I was being fair, and that there wasn’t
something important I was missing. After all, if I’m critiquing
batteries and remote-controlled cars and cell phones as an inventory
being used for the foundation of a recovery… especially for a
store that holds some great memories for me… it deserves a full
effort when it comes to the research, and not just a visit to
a web site.
sorry to say… there’s not much else.
I basically found four stores. I suppose, mini-stores would be
was a section offering up cell phones that looked remarkably similar
to any cell phone provider’s store that you may have ever entered.
Phones… cases… chargers… trinkets and plenty of things you need
for your cell phone but never would have known you needed until
you saw them here… you get the idea.
section offered up remote controlled vehicles. A Porsche Spyder
was one option… along with trinkets and cases and plenty of things
you need for your remote controlled vehicle but never would have
known you needed until you saw them here.
the third area was what I’ll call general stuff. Televisions,
laptops, and so on. (Speaking of checking out the store and web
sites -- and I want honest answers -- if you were one of the people
looking for the new Xbox or PlayStation, did you check Radio Shack?
Did that even occur to you? Not sure about release day, but there
it is on the web site… Xbox One.)
then, one more area, the difference maker. The final section offered
those items that would separate Radio Shack from many places…
and, I’m afraid, in so many ways find a limited audience. Yup…
the soldering equipment… the tools… wires and bulbs and pieces
that I’m sure many do-it-yourself people might want, but do not
create a daily or weekly (or monthly or yearly) need for many
of us to visit the store.
one approached me while I was inside. One employee was ringing
up a sale, and another was heading into the back for something.
He didn’t return during the ten minutes I spent wandering around.
Not really a concern, since I was just looking and not even for
I walked around, I couldn’t help but think that everything looked
remarkably well-placed. And by that, I mean spread out, as if
they had too much display area to fill and spread everything out
in an attempt to cover the walls and shelves.
I needed some soldering equipment, a laptop, a Porsche and some
batteries, I could definitely find a way to use a gift card from
hope Radio Shack figures it out. I really do. I may not get there
often, but I will notice if the day comes when they’re gone.