Thursday, February 5, 2015

Technology Corner: Radio Shack (1921-2015)

 Radio Shack advertisement from
May 1976, as featured in
The News-Post.
The place that was once known for the "do-it-yourself" electronics hobbyist has bit the dust.  Radio Shack Corporation recently filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, as a result of sagging sales, poor customer service, and declining stock values.  This was also due in part to the New York Stock Exchange delisting the company's shares.  About half of the company's 4,000+ stores are expected to close, with speculation that Sprint and Amazon are interested in acquiring former Radio Shack locations in the near future.

Founded in 1921 as a store for ham radio enthusiasts in Massachusetts, the company would later expand to selling other electronics components, including high-fidelity sound systems.  Radio Shack would be later acquired by Texas businessman Charles Tandy in 1963 and would soon rise to prominence.   Radio Shack's parent company would expand into the field of personal computers, introducing the Tandy TRS-80, the first fully-manufactured personal computer.  The stores would later expand their offerings to visual communication products, along with cordless and early cellular phones.

In recent times, Radio Shack would move away from hobbyist electronics, and moved from that field, as the Radio Shack considered that smartphones would be the answer to the company's future.  Because of that decision, products that Radio Shack was known for would be discontinued (audio components, electronic kits, etc.), along with their iconic catalog that satisfied the electronics enthusiast.  That was one of many signs of the company's downfall.

Here's what could have saved Radio Shack:

-Not doing away with hi-fi components: Realistic and Optimus were Radio Shack's popular house brand for stereo and speaker components.  It was a bleak time for audio/hi-fi enthusiasts when Radio Shack did away with their audio components lineup, and partially lead to the downfall (or mergers) of high-fidelity speaker manufacturers.   Unfortunately, in this day and age, low-end, dinky iPod/MP3 speaker docks and overpriced (yet poorly-made) headphones rule the audio world.  

-Not doing away with the catalog: The Radio Shack catalog was the "heart and soul" for the electronics enthusiast.

-Cater to those that aren't interested in smartphones: Not everyone has a smartphone, and not everyone is interested in one.  Stick with the basics that made Radio Shack great in its glory days, by catering to those who are interested in the "do-it-yourself" electronics field.

Farewell, Radio Shack.  It will have its place with all of the short-lived niche electronic stores that the former Tandy Corporation had- Video Concepts, Computer City, and Incredible Universe.   The store will also have its place with former stores such as Woolworth, Gee Bee, Hills, Montgomery Ward, Sam Goody (which was absorbed by FYE), just to name a few.  I guess I was lucky enough to experience these stores long ago.

More on Radio Shack and stereo components are featured in an earlier post..

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The proprietor of "At The Matinee", Chris Hamby- welcomes your comments and suggestions on any post featured. NOTE: All comments are monitored by the author.