Hard for Me To Explain

CompUSA is apparently closing shop, something that is not too surprising observing the follies at my local store.  I can understand how CompUSA was killed by the likes of Best Buy and Fry's Electronics  (not to mention Newegg.com, which is my favorite source).  What I cannot understand is how Radio Shack continues to plod along and survive.  I buy a couple of things a year there (usually something like a transformer replacement or some kind of oddball splitter) but I am always kind of surprised to still find them there -- its like finding a Woolworth's in the local mall.  Though it still seems to make money, with a TTM after-tax margin of about 5%, which is not bad for a retailer.

Update:  here


  1. Mark:

    Hardly a surprise to me. They adapted to changing markets. They started selling cell phones, service packages for them, computers that weren't Tandy branded, now they sell satellite systems and the like. They bring the products to market that consumers want. Plus, they still seel the odd splitter and transformer. Works for them quite well.

  2. tim:

    I used to work there a long, long time ago! They sucked then too. I remember some of the antics like when they only staffed the phone lines with one guy (Me) and then when the hold time reached 45 minutes or so they would tell me to pick up the phone, take a number and call them back.

    I remember telling them that any customer that has waited 45 minutes to talk to a human is going to be REALLY pissed when you tell him that you aren't going to answer the question they have been waiting on hold for.

    I also remember trying to sort out their database problems because they didn't know what was in stock and what was not, and they certainly couldn't sort out all the discontinued items. So when I looked through the DB there were 20 discontinued items for every stocking item.

    Imagine an employee making $6 per hour, building an application to actually get good data for clients faster. Ah, those were the days.

  3. OneEyedMan:

    I always thought of them as the Quickimart of electronics. The stores are small, and highly staffed relative to their size. That means that a visit to the Shack is fast and easy. Not the place for the biggest selection or the best price, but always close buy, you can get help with your basic questions, and no horrible crowds to contend with.

  4. markm:

    In many small to medium towns, Radio Shack is the only place you can buy electronic parts other than ordering from a catalog distributor like Digikey. Sure, their selection and prices are horrible, but if you can find it, you can get it today, and their markup is usually less than the UPS shipping cost, even by ground. I've seen a RS reduced to one rack placed in a hardware store, but it still managed to stock quite a lot of what you need when building an electronic device by hand. If you've traveled to Kalkaska, MI (say) to repair a large and expensive piece of equipment, sometimes that rack of RS parts will save you from taking a motel overnight and waiting for UPS in the morning - and $5.00 at Radio Shack for a $.05 part doesn't look at all bad to the beancounters once they realize what costs were avoided.

    Now, don't ask me how their consumer electronics side survives selling pretty much the same thing as Walmart, ABC Warehouse, etc. Perhaps it is that the service is usually fast and the staff sometimes knowledgeable, versus universal ignorance at most competitors.

  5. Jim K:

    If you want an unusual cable or connector and don't want to order it from a catalog, RS is usually the best place to go look for it. It is my understanding that those types of products are very high margin. Why anyone would go there to buy consumer electronics is beyond me.

  6. Craig:

    Radio Shacks are just so damned handy. There are a couple here on the West Side of Buffalo (no other electronics retailers for miles). And when you're at a suburban mall, they're right there in the concourse next to Waldenbooks instead of in a stand-alone store two lots away that requires getting back into the car, finding another parking space, etc.. Not to mention that RS still has stores in a lot of small towns that otherwise wouldn't have anything remotely resembling their admittedly limited selection.

    I've predicted their demise many times, but they just keep reinventing themselves -- but they do it subtly -- you'd hardly notice.