Saving Radio Shack, part 2
In my first post on saving Radio Shack I discussed MG Seigler’s plan to save Radio Shack by turning it into the Apple store for everything else. In this, the second installment on saving Radio Shack, I’ll present a completely different alternative, one that takes Radio Shack back to its roots in hobbyist radio and puts Radio Shack at the forefront of the Maker movement.
On a recent episode ofThe Morning Stream podcast, guest host Justin Robert Young (JURY to his fans) posited an alternative plan to save Radio Shack that is very different from MG’s. JURY argues that Radio Shack should be to the maker movement what Home Depot and Lowe’s are to the DIY network et. al.
Home improvement stores have done a fantastic job of appealing to the DIY crowd (specifically here meaning people doing home improvement projects themselves) by offering classes, experts, and materials that appeal to people who aspire to be more like Bob Villa and other tv home improvement personalities. It’s little coincidence that in the middle of such a tv show there are numerous home improvement store commercials focused on how their store will let you do amazing things.
It’s time for RadioShack to be that place for hacker and maker blog enthusiasts.
Make: magazine has done some amazing work in resurrecting the art of building and making things in the minds of the layman. Maker Faires dot the country and the globe, and there are thousands of people who want to be more connected to and involved with the things they use every day. Make: is focused on making for the sake of it, and making anything that strikes your fancy. I can get behind that. But Radio Shack isn’t particularly suited to making suits of armor or a new kitchen table. Admirable as those may be, it’s electronics that are in Radio Shack’s DNA.
However, designing and building electronics is hard. There’s a reason the average person has no idea how their phone works, and even the technically inclined often have no idea how to get from Idea to Finished project when it comes to electronics. Sure, the project pages hosted by Make:, Instructables, and others are proof that many people can and do make some incredible things, largely on their own. Really cool projects, however, often lay outside the reach of the mere hobbyist. The sheer amount of engineering that goes into a simple internet streaming box for example, makes such a project impossible for a great majority if people. However, the success of xbmc (now called kodi) on the $35 Rasberry pi is proof that if most of the heavy lifting has been done, people are interested in taking part in the creation process of their everyday objects.
Imagine this scenario (hat tip to JURY again): what if rather than buying an impersonal AppleTV or Roku box, you (and maybe your progeny tagging along with you) could walk into Radio Shack instead and pick up a TV streamer Kit. The heavy lifting has been done for you, so you’re able to follow the detailed instructions and after a Saturday you’ve got your very own, built by you, AwesomeStreamingBox 1000. That’s definitely something that would appeal to me, and likely a large enough group of other people that RadioShack might come back from the brink.
Radio Shack already has the right retail footprint for this kind of person and project, and with a new workforce focused more on being the “guide at the side” of the growing segment of the population wanting to do and connect with something physical again, they’d have a fighting chance at staying alive.
Will Radio Shack stay alive? It’s obviously too soon to say. But maybe if they can transform themselves, they’ll be around for a long time to come.