The RadioShack Revival

Just a few weeks ago, a struggling RadioShack announced that they had tapped Harry Wilson, a gentlemen known best for bringing General Motors back from the brink of ruin, in hopes to bring the electronic retailer seemingly back from the dead. While somewhat infamous in his own right, Wilson joins a team of lawyers and bankers working hard to keep the battery peddler afloat.

As the holiday season approaches, I look back to fond memories of RadioShack commercials conspicuously telling me what kind of remote control gadget I absolutely needed to ask my parents to purchase me for Christmas. And don’t forget the batteries! Because they aren’t included. Some assembly required. (Maybe.) So what’s been ailing the mighty Shack of Christmas electronics yore? Well, have you been in a RadioShack lately?

They are no longer anything that ever made them cool any more. They are prostitutes to pimp mobile companies that clearly are leeching off their ragged and dying corpse by taking up a sizeable piece of prime display space in the practically empty stores. And every one of those stores bends over and takes it.

No, Mr. Mobile-Bitch, I do not want to look at your phones I can buy literally anywhere else. Sell me something cool.

I happened to have been inside a RadioShack a few months ago when Manfriend was looking for a power cable to revive a weathered external hard drive. The gentlemen at the counter was not very knowledgeable. The electronics building kits, being the only distinguishing factor between this RadioShack and a Sprint Store, were hidden in a dark shelf in the back, collecting dust and waiting to die. Standing there thumbing through the tattered visage of what this store used to be, it struck me: Radio Shack sold their soul and are blind to what they’ve had. They have had a perfect pivot point for decades and they have not yet taken advantage of it even as they struggle for livelihood. What I am talking about here is capitalizing on the Do-It-Yourselfers and the Hobbyists.

As much as I really want to pat myself on the back for such a wonderful independent analysis, Brian Upbin of Forbes was completely onto this idea back in 2012. I was sorry to find this out doing a bit of cursory research before unleashing my flow of business brilliance. In all seriousness, though, what RadioShack really needs to do is kill it’s underperforming stores and transform it’s brick-mortar presence into a nerd wonderland. There are entire subcultures centered on DIY and “Makers” that are prime for a little mainstream love. RadioShack has been poised to bring the love for these movements for decades. And yet Forbes handed them their Golden Ticket out of loss after consecutive loss two whole years ago, and they are still scrambling to figure out what ever they can do. This speaks of a deeply entrenched poor corporate culture at the executive level and I sincerely hope Harry Wilson hands them their ass on a silver platter.

I also hope one day I will walk into a RadioShack and see cool tinkering tools, a 3D printer to play with and a DIY maker’s workshop class schedule. Because any RadioShack that has these things would inspire a kind of nostalgic excitement in those of us who grew up with the RC racer commercials and hobby kits. The kind of excitement to get us back in their stores.

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