Let Your Geek Fly!
I have a bit of advice for Radio Shack and it’s current struggles. Let’s be honest, I don’t think you can compete with the electronics stores of today and Amazon. But you can go back to your roots and get your geek on. Yes you will have to close some stores. But you have to look at what made you, you. All those little parts on the wall that the normal consumers would never know what to do with them. Don’t you even remember where your name came from? I do! If you think you do put it in the comments.
Radio Shack you need to go back to your roots and help everyone’s inner nerd shine. You still have all those same parts there but only the die hard users know that. Even to me when I walk in all I see is a cell phone kiosk. You used to be so much more than that.
Here’s what I would do.
- Go FULL ON NERD!
- Hold tech clinics right in the store! Help your customers build robots, electronics and computers from scratch. Nerds should know how to do that blindfolded. (hum that might be a good contest…)
- Put 3D printers and other rapid prototyping devices in your store for people to use and try out. Maybe you become a real test lab before they buy.
- Hold invention contests. Help them invent and create new stuff. Go all Apollo 13 on stuff. Sell grab boxes and say make something with this, promote the heck out of that! There is a new nerd movement growing jump on and ride.
- Mentor programs. You know how many older hackers go into stores or at least use too? What a great way to put an older person to work giving advice and working with young people. What if they could pass their knowledge down to new hackers?
- Partner with Life Hacker, How, DIY Networks and let them build shows around your parts and products. You’ll be able to sell kits for things you’ve couldn’t have dreamed up on your own. Then you can show them how it’s really done. Don’t you see the new age of DIY?
- Connect! I mean really go all out on video and audio connectors and adapters.
- Maybe even partner with a coffee or snack shop encourage people to come in and hang out, test, learn and build.
When I was a teen I loved Radio Shack. I loved it when the new catalogs came out, it was my “Sears” catalog. Let me tell you I spent a lot of time there, so much time there they offered me a job right out of high school. The manager figured I knew their products and I did!
Look at what I made when I was a teen. Yes, I’ve kept it all these years. I built this before I had access to anything like an internet and life hacking websites. Luckily my Father is a Mechanical engineering and he was able to give me a lot of help and advice. Every electronic part you see here I got at Radio Shack well other than a few parts I picked up at the local hardware store.
This is a light board I build for when I was DJing and working with bands. It was the low voltage lighting controller for the stage lighting system. I even had LED indicators so I’d know which switch was on.
This is where the telephone lines came in to the switch board.
This was the control board I made. I know it’s not pretty or that complicated. If I plugged it in right now it would still work. You can still see the date I etched into the board when I made it. 1986.
These are the relays I used to switch the lights on and off. The great part was I only needed a few extension cords to power the lights. The controls were near the lights and I ran the telephone line up to the control boxes. So everything was a very light weight system. Saving time setting up and carrying things around.
Don’t forget the Audio and Video Connectors
Like I mentioned in option G. you (Radio Shack) has always been the best place to get connectors. I could patch into anythings. Play that up and expand that selection too. You still can. It’s my default place to go to get my gear connected up. Here’s my tackle box full of connectors. I guarantee every Film or video-maker, audio engineer has one of these. I even have a mini bag for emergency audio/video patch jobs. There some contests in there where you’d have people show off their boxes and try to connect things.
Radio Shack is for the REAL DIYer, it always has been and always SHOULD be.
I made stuff and not just kits I took the stuff off the walls of Radio Shack and I made new things out of it. I learned a lot! I learned how to make things, I learned how to make it look interesting and useful. I learned how these part could work together and what they did. I learned how to use new tools.
I think you’re really missing an opportunity to double down and go real geek. Please don’t turn into a kiosk in the middle of a Mall selling iPhone cases and Bluetooth ear buds. You’re better than that. I learned so much when I was a kid. Your stores made me feel like a mad scientist and it made me a better artist and product designer.