Can the DIY Community Save RadioShack?

Image: Calsidyrose [Flickr]

RadioShack was founded by two brothers who wanted to provide equipment for the then-new field of ham radio. Over the next few decades, the company grew to become a large behemoth by appealing to the DIY community.

Then came rounds of scandals, getting their clocks cleaned by cheaper competitors, and The Shack rebranding (I mean, I understand, "radio" is something today's youth associate with their grandmothers).

Now, the company is trying to return to its DIY roots, as it explains in this blog post and video clip. Mike Nathan of Hackaday blog wrote:

What used to be a haven for amateur radio operators, tinkerers, and builders alike has devolved into a stripmall mainstay full of cell phones and overpriced junk. RadioShack knows that they have fallen out of your good graces, and since you are the demographic that put them on the map, they are appealing to the DIY community for input.

They want to know what is important to you – what you would like to see at your local RadioShack, and what would bring you back through their doors. Obviously price is a huge concern, especially with online outlets like Digikey and Mouser just a few clicks away. At the end of the day however, if you require a component RIGHT NOW, it would be nice to have the ability to grab some parts locally.

We’re well aware of the fact that this is all part of a marketing scheme, but if it helps stock your local store with a few odds and ends that are actually helpful, it won’t hurt to let your voice be heard.

This satirical The Onion article summarizes the predicament of RadioShack quite well:

Despite having been on the job for nine months, RadioShack CEO Julian Day said Monday that he still has "no idea" how the home electronics store manages to stay open.

"There must be some sort of business model that enables this company to make money, but I'll be damned if I know what it is," Day said. "You wouldn't think that people still buy enough strobe lights and extension cords to support an entire nationwide chain, but I guess they must, or I wouldn't have this desk to sit behind all day."

The retail outlet boasts more than 6,000 locations in the United States, and is known best for its wall-sized displays of obscure-looking analog electronics components and its notoriously desperate, high-pressure sales staff. Nevertheless, it ranks as a Fortune 500 company, with gross revenues of over $4.5 billion and fiscal quarter earnings averaging tens of millions of dollars.

"Have you even been inside of a RadioShack recently?" Day asked. "Just walking into the place makes you feel vaguely depressed and alienated. Maybe our customers are at the mall anyway and don't feel like driving to Best Buy? I suppose that's possible, but still, it's just...weird."

What do you think? Can RadioShack survive and recapture its glory days? Heck, when was the last time you were in one? (via cool-o-rama)

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My father was a manager for Radio Shack for 15 years when I was a kid. Although I had one of these electronic boards I didn't use it. Dad used to bring home boxes of returned electronics that he referred to as "Field Replacement Units" (FRUs) though often a box would contain a Remote Control car and some other gadgets we'd get working. We managed to bag a Golden Arrow RC this way.

My father worked for Radio Shack Canada which now goes by "The Source" since it no longer has the rights to the Radio Shack name. And my father is back working for The Source after having quit several years ago. He didn't quit because it was a bad place to work. When he managed the store back in the 80s and 90s he had staff that were knowledgable. His resident computer tech was also the man who established much of our local community networks and was involved in Bulletin Board Systems (BBS). He had a very good handle on electronics and computer technology especially.

The Source today is nonsense, while my dad may work for them and know quite a lot about electronics and computers. My cousin is also a manager and he is young and knows very little about electronics in theory or in practice. He knows how to brown-nose and that's about it. In addition most of their minor parts are no longer stocked and quality brands have been replaced with Nextech which is crappy. Although their early computers e.g. TRS80 might not have been highly compatible, virtually no computers were at that time. As a child I enjoyed coding in BASIC on our TRS80 and Tandy 1000.

I don't go there much anymore because when I do go looking for a soldering gun or RJ-45 crimp tool they either don't have them or they are poor quality.
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I think they killed themselves off when they dropped "radio" and moved to the malls. The corpse has just not hit the ground yet.

I have had better luck finding DIY electrical components at my local Mom & Pop hardware store.
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The Radio Shack here sells cell phone service, phones, and phone accessories. They are subcontractors for several phone providers. Maybe a little corner of the store is devoted to "everything else".
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for me, radio schlock has always been about cheap crap and sales guys in bad suits...too bad really they almost made a going concern of their trs-80 products back in the 80s but went all corporate with it and lost their market
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What they would have to do, to attract my DIY business, is to carry modern electronic parts, centered around the Microcontroller, likely by making the parts modular, like Sparkfun has their parts available, and be able to get (on order fine), parts to repair stereos, TVs, and such.

What they need to stock is cases, hookup wires, and popular parts.
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