A question: When was the last time you went to RadioShack? More to the point, when was the last time you went to RadioShack and bought something? The company’s sad, dusty storefronts still haunt the corners of the worst strip malls, and most of the time they don’t look totally empty. I haven’t needed any speaker wire in a while, but some people must have…maybe. Because their brand has faded into such obscurity that most forget it even exists, RadioShack will soon become “The Shack,” or the cool uncle version of RadioShack. Not that cassettes and alligator clips are cool—but who else sells items like that anyway? When I wanted to circuit bend an old Casio a couple of years ago, the only place I could find stuff like that was RadioShack, and thankfully the one in Baltimore’s mall The Rotunda has been open forever and may never close.
Is RadioShack cool? No. Is it necessary? Kind of. As Todd Weiss said in a piece concerning the rebranding, RadioShack is pretty much the only nationwide chain where you can get electrical and technological miscellanea. Circuit City failed because its stock was fairly identical to its more successful contemporaries—Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, etc. True, the niche RadioShack appeals to is small, but it remains largely unrivaled. At some point, almost everyone needs a phone or a television. Fewer people need soldering materials—but without RadioShack, what would they do? It is an unglamorous store but it certainly serves a purpose.
The rebranding of the store as “The Shack” could pose some problems for this need. There’s no denying that the ephemera RadioShack sells isn’t hip. Does the new name mean a change in stock, perhaps towards the more relevant and profitable market of MP3 players, computers, cell phones, video games, etc.? Such a move would render The Shack completely obsolete, and condemn it to the same fate as Circuit City. Perhaps the RadioShack of old simply wasn’t profitable—this isn’t surprising but it is unfortunate. Perhaps this sounds overly sentimental but in truth I haven’t been to RadioShack in at least two years. But one day, I will need to get some more cassettes and quarter-inch to eighth-inch adapters. If The Shack can’t help me, who will?