In a bit of news that I am absolutely amazed did not hit my radar, so to speak, it appears the 92 year old technology store chain RadioShack is down for the count. The situation, as it stands, seems to be as simple as loss of profit, up to the point of them filing bankruptcy. This is still, as of the time of this writing, rumors and speculation, but there was a sign just a few days ago that should have given me warning of this: the RadioShack in a local mall was close on a Saturday morning, with no posted special reason.
That alone wouldn’t be enough to make me think a whole company was dying out; that store, even inside of the dominant shopping center in the Memphis area, still could easily enough become non-profitable enough to need to close. That’s a bum situation, but there is another store just a few miles East, if I needed something in one. Then, tonight, I saw an article on another website mentioning the end of the store chain, and suddenly it made sense.
From what it seems, Amazon and Sprint are reported as possibly buying some of the stores, and co branding them, while other stores are simply closing for good. Again, this is all rumors, but as the new financial year has begun, things with RadioShack stores locally have indeed seemed odd.
The funny thing is, even being the do-it-yourself hobbyist I am, I’m almost happy to see this happen. RadioShack has been, sadly, a horrible experience for the past decade, and we have consumer tech trends to thank for this.
Many hobbyist circles refer to RadioShack not by its proper name, but instead by the derogatory “CellPhone shack” as the trend for much of the past decade in their sales has not been capacitors, resisters, diodes and other electrical components, but disposable consume tech such as cell phones, tablets, and cheap laptop computers. Nothing of lasting value, mixed alongside whatever toys are trendy for that time of the year, pushing into a far back corner all the equipment that made the stores a haven for the technologically inclined – Soldering irons, spare components, and other electrical goodies.
Even into the 1990’s, you could walk into a RadioShack, ask for a particular resistor or capacitor, and the person working there would be able to help you find exactly what you needed. The past few years, instead, the only way to actually get help would be if you wanted to know what the difference was between an iPhone and a Samsung Galaxy. Asking about a particular capacitor or a potentiometer would get you a look like you said you just came from the Moon.
It wouldn’t matter even if they knew what you were talking about – the odds are slim that the store would have the particular item you desired. The rather small item selection they did have was also incredibly overpriced. By 2012, you could order parts, in some cases literally a dime a dozen, while for one unit of the same part you might pay nearly a dollar or more at a RadioShack store. The hobbyist market moved on, which to me was the real death of RadioShack. By having to force themselves to move into broad consumer tech, they doomed themselves to the inevitable disposable nature of such products, which included having to fight with virtually every other retailer for sales.
You can buy a cell phone at a Gas Station. You can buy a Laptop at Walmart. You can’t buy a 280 Ohm resistor at any chain shop except for RadioShack. Well, at least, you could until this past weekend.
I could go on and on about the glory days of “the Shack,” but those are far before my time. All I can say is what I have experience, which is, in the same time I began working on home made technology and repairs, I watch local stores go from carrying an amazing selection of parts for every situation I could come across, to stores only caring to sell me 3 iPhones and a “high definition” camera that records at what can only be described as 1990’s quality.
You did this to yourself RadioShack. You shoved away the very demographic that made you unique, to instead fight a battle against the big boxes on their own turf.
If this is the end, as much as I hate to say it, good riddance Cell Phone Shack.