Ever since I was a teenager I have loved shopping at Radio Shack. Yes, I’ll gladly admit it – I was a “geek” even back then.
They were indeed a little pricey, but if I needed a resistor, capacitor, potentiometer, vauum tube or some other electronic component, chances are the local “Shack” would have it.
But not anymore. The shelves and wall racks containing “parts” used to take up half the store, but now their stock of those items barely fills a small corner of the room. I do realize that times have changed. Nowadays all of those items can easily be purchased online for less money. But as is usually the case in situations like this, there’s more to the story than just that.
You see, this country is still full of geeks like me who love building and fixing things, but like holding the parts they need in their hot little hands before they hand over their money. I guess it’s a cultural thing. Radio Shack all but abandoned us, so we geeks reluctantly took our business elsewhere.
Of course the changes made by Radio Shack didn’t begin just last week. I noticed several years ago that many of the products that made Radio Shack into a household name were no longer in the stores. Gone were the TRS-80 and Tandy lines of computers and the “IBM PC clones” that replaced them. Also gone were Radio Shack’s own “Realistic” brand of audio equipment. Vanished, as they say, without a trace.
Over the years, what was once America’s most popular electronics retail chain because of the distinctive products they sold, stopped selling those products and replaced them with items that could be purchased at Best Buy, Target and Walmart. And since their stores, sales volume and buying power were on a much smaller scale, they had to mark up their merchandise and sell it at a premium in order to make a profit.
The problem with that business model is selling at a premium only works when the items you’re selling aren’t the same ones everyone else is selling at a lower price. They must be different and hard to find elsewhere.
All of those distinctive products from years past were what built Radio Shack into a powerhouse in the retail electronics niche, yet for whatever reason they chose to abandon them and try to compete with the big boys who sell the very same products. And as we all know, that rarely works.
After years of sluggish sales, the powers that be at Radio Shack ultimately decided that they need to attempt to right the proverbial ship by closing some 1,100 of their poorest performing stores and transform the stores that remain into something “new and exciting”.
In an effort to kickstart that campaign into high gear, the company paid what was surely an astronomical price to produce this ad (which I find quite amusing) and run it during this year’s Super Bowl:
I truly wish Radio Shack well in their effort to reorganize and survive, and I hope that part of their strategy for doing that is getting back to the roots that allowed them to grow by leaps and bounds in the first place. After all, I have lots of very fond memories of “The Shack”. I’d really hate to see the entire company become nothing more than a memory.