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The Shack Is Back

The Shack Is Back

The exterior of a typical free-standing RadioShack store in Texarkana, Texas. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Back in February 2015, Radio Shack filed for bankruptcy.

Many of us feared that we had lost a popular source of electronic products and parts. Well, in case you didn’t get the memo, Radio Shack is alive and well as a new company. It did not come out of bankruptcy as is the usual case. Instead, Standard General, a New York hedge fund, bought the assets and brand and formed a new company under the ownership of General Wireless with the name Radio Shack. It retained about 1,700 of the original 4,000-plus stores. Roughly 1,400 of the 1,700 are co-branded with Sprint and the telecommunications giant will sell cell phones and subscriber plans on-site.

Radio Shack is now a greatly scaled-down company and more focused on building a new business model around its stores and a greatly expanded online presence. It will continue to sell popular consumer electronics items, but also will take advantage of the growing DIY/Maker niche. Look for a growing number of Radio Shack smaller electronic kits in stores in the months to come. What they really need is a few signature larger kits to generate some significant buzz and dollars. Drones and robots come to mind, but that has been done. How about more radio products? Why not ham radio products, as this is a known and growing market? Besides, the former ham kit company Heathkit is not doing anything.

Radio Shack is also pursuing an educational approach to the hobbyist market. It plans to participate in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) movement in schools to introduce students to these technical fields. It will also offer in-store learning sessions and demos. I urge them to do even more educational projects like offering books, learning kits, and online webinars.

I am glad to see the survival of Radio Shack. It will continue to be a valuable resource for parts and accessories that many of us have come to rely upon. Let’s hope it flourishes with the new focus and direction. Check out the new website for an update.

The whole Radio Shack bankruptcy and re-emergence took place in less than a year. Yet here we are many years later still waiting on Heathkit to come back to life as the premier kit maker. So far not much is happening. A few years ago, Heathkit conducted an extensive survey of old and potentially new customers to find out what they wanted. What came of that was a $149 AM radio. A TRF rather than superhet version at that. Battery powered with no tuning dial or speaker. What were they thinking?  Who is the market for this anyway? Kids? Really? People still do listen to AM radio, but mostly in their cars. It is an adult news and talk radio business. Kids and millennials listen to online sources mostly and FM if it is radio.

Anyway, what’s up with Heathkit? Such a great name and reputation is just going to waste. We all know that designing new kits is not easy, especially the larger and more complex kits Heathkit is known for. But how many years does it take? Is it a cash problem? Or maybe the new owners do not believe they can live up to Heathkit’s glorious past or new customer expectations. Whatever. Hey, Heathkit guys, do something soon. Radio Shack is already showing you up.

UPDATE: Readers weigh in, and Lou responds.

Looking for parts? Go to SourceESB.

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