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What Is the Point of RadioShack?

Sep 17, 2010

Been looking for a great deal on a cassette recorder? I didn’t think so.

rs adp What Is the Point of RadioShack?

When is the last time you heard someone say, “Hey man, I got to go grab something at Radioshack?” Possibly never? I know this may be the case because of a conversation I had earlier today:

rs convo What Is the Point of RadioShack?

Radioshack, once a leader in consumer electronics retail, is an antiquated dark horse in our tech-dominated world. Best Buy covers the wants and needs of consumer electronic shoppers. Apple stores are beautiful. SonyStyle stores have those new 3D TVs and they smell like vanilla. So where does RadioShack fit in?

I have no idea, so I went there today.

RadioShack looks exactly the same as it did in the eighties. Same submarine-gray carpet, same rows of bizarre devices, same listless staff in their unenthusiastic polos. When they first started planning Apple stores, Steve Jobs must’ve said, “Here is a picture of RadioShack. We need to do the exact opposite.”

The first thing you’ll notice is that all the radios are actually iPod docks. This is because standalone radios are useless. So it’s right there in the name; RadioShack: a shack of useless crap.

A lot of stores place their hottest items up front. Not so for RadioShack. After seeing a gift card for “Billboard’s 1000 Premium Songs” I wonder, Who would pay $30 dollars for this? And how a song could be premium?

To my left stood a mess of colorful iPod and iPhone accessories, shelved with just the slightest hint of organization. It seems RadioShack was going for a Kurdish bazaar vibe here. It worked.

After passing a barrage of BlackBerrys in the center of the store, the classic RadioShack stuff started popping up. Bam — a $30 dollar portable karaoke player. I didn’t have to buy this thing to tell you it doesn’t work.

To my right is all manner of throwback items, including attenuators, analog pass-through boxes, and the most eighties item of all, the in-wall stereo volume control. The type of guys that own in-wall stereo controls are the same guys that put mirrors over their beds. Also there are remote controls with giant buttons for old people.

RadioShack doesn’t sell video games or consoles, but they sell accessories. This is not unlike having a branch of Subway that just sells bread.

Then there’s the mother load, RadioShack’s “Great Gadgets You Didn’t Know You Needed!” better known as “Things No One Needs!”

First up is Bark Off. Plug this item in to produce a high-pitched squeal inaudible to humans allowing you to discipline your furry little friend. I wonder if PETA knows RadioShack sells a wall-mounted dog torture device?

Then there’s the $6 solar-powered clock. In the event you don’t tell time using your computer or your cell phone, you’ll need an office with a window. I guess in some small, unintended way this is a status symbol. Next to it was a metal detector.

I still don’t know what to think of RadioShack. It feels a lot like the Tower Records of consumer electronics, chugging along into obscurity. But is Radioshack pointless? It’s tough to say. One never knows when he might need an off-air solid-signal antenna.

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