RadioShack will cease to exist because it doesn’t deserve to exist

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RadioShack-LogoThe headlines today were jarring but not surprising: RadioShack wants to close 1,100 stores. My thoughts first turned to all of the employees who would be losing their jobs due to the company’s ongoing struggles. (At least they don’t need to deal with the cognitive dissonance generated by this headline from last week: “Best Buy Returns to Profit, Announces Layoffs.”)

Anyway, we all hear (and have been hearing, seemingly forever) how a turnaround for RadioShack is in the offing largely due to how “powerful” its brand is. Well, I’m here to throw a pond full of water on that idea.

Sure, everyone knows who RadioShack is. But what do they know RadioShack for? Mention RadioShack to anyone over 30 and they’ll immediately bring up the company’s heavy-handed and annoying practice of asking for your name, address and phone number when you’re just trying to buy some batteries. I think a few years ago the company cut that practice out. I wouldn’t know, because even though I’ve visited RadioShack a few times in the last decade, I haven’t bought anything, save for a $15 transistor radio (natch) for emergencies.

Mention RadioShack to anyone under 30, and they’ll probably just give you a blank stare or worse. I asked my 20-something colleague Hannah Abrams what she thought of when she heard “RadioShack” and she said, “My dad.” That sounds about right.

As much as it has tried to be your electronics store of choice over the decades, RadioShack is in fact the convenience store of electronics retail. Pretty much every trip to RadioShack I’ve made or have been witness to has been roughly centered around, “I need this cable/adapter/doodad. I’m gonna run down to RadioShack.” The company’s advantage was that it was as ubiquitous in the nation’s shopping centers and malls as 7-Elevens, nail salons and pizza joints.

But the experience itself always sucked. Beyond the grating “give me all your personal information” solicitations at the register, there were the haphazard, depressing store layouts and worse, the interaction with the staff. Sometimes, especially in ancient times, they’d be big-timing you in some one-sided contest of nerdery. Lately, as in many retail environments, the staff often seemed less informed than the customers. Which is worse? I’ll let you ponder that existential question for a bit.

So that’s what RadioShack is: a place of last resort to get cables and other accessories. Or a phone if you’re feeling particularly adventurous. Cellphone stores have taken a big bite out of RadioShack’s accessories business. Best Buy, where available, beats it on price, as does Target, Wal-Mart, Costco… you get the idea. Oh, and then there’s a little thing called the internet, where you can get pretty much any widget you want at a lower price than you can at RadioShack.

Here’s my plan for how RadioShack can stay in business: Start selling cigarettes, candy, beverages and lottery tickets. The store size is right, and that’s a pretty sustainable business model, isn’t it?

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  • Ronaldo M Franchini

    Closing is the best option. RadioShack can not stand for the competition anymore. They are completely old fashioned, they did not follow the market trends, unfortunately.

  • Edward Millington

    Have to agree that Radio Shack is its real enemy.

  • Barry Klein

    We are in a world now where we can buy whatever we want over the internet and get it quickly. Problem is that shipping costs are getting prohibitive for small orders and Congress doesn’t care. It is killing small business sales. RS was one of the first to source parts from China. Barely useable but did the job at the right price. Now China part quality is better but RS doesn’t know what to sell anymore. Their salespeople have no electronics background – my local store people do not know a resistor from a capacitor and don’t know how to pronounce “diode”. While RS is failing, Maker-tronics is very successful. Math and science tutoring businesses are appearing in small shopping centers. People are learning how to make, modify, and fix things again. Change the company name, hire people that know technology and keep up with it. Educate to build the customer base. Source quality popular parts at low prices. Manage inventory twice a week. Keep tabs on what customers ask for that you cannot do now and work on a solution that grows store/chain profit. Let BB focus on selling cellphone cases and earbuds. Follow Apple and look to medical, auto, and sports/health products for the future. Such a shame to see a company with so much potential die for lack of vision.

    • Edward Millington

      Agree Barry. DIYers always need somewhere to shop, argue, discuss and at the end of the day feel welcome. Nothing worse than going into some place where they don’t know what you want, don’t know why you want it, don’t care.