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Radio Shack's Losses More Than Double

By Greg Harris

Radio Shack I get emails all the time from customers waxing fondly about the days of old when Radio Shack was more than just a store, but a place where people who loved electronics would hang out. Those days are long gone and when I recently saw the headline "Radio Shack's Losses More Than Double" part of me was sad that this chapter in electronics component history appears to be quickly closing.

There was a time when the future of electronics was easy to predict. Components would keep getting smaller and harder for those of us with fat fingers to work with. Electronics as a hobby was quickly dying and many were predicting it would die out as the old hobbyists died off.

"Radio Shack was founded back in 1921 to service the ham radio market, but in the 1960s and 70s, with the help of Charles Tandy, Radio Shack emerged as everyone's neighborhood electronic components store. But at some point in the 1990s that all changed. The component section got smaller and smaller until it virtually disappeared. The emergence of consumer electronics began to dominate and squeeze out the folks who thought a screwdriver in their shirt pocket was a fashion statement.

Many people I've spoken to remember Radio Shack not as a store but as a destination where they could meet and discuss the hobby that they loved. Radio Shack was a community and that's why for many the evolution was so frustrating.

But something happened in the new millennium. I can't say anyone at Jameco was smart enough to predict the electronics hobbyist market would reverse course and start to grow, but when it did we certainly recognized the void left by Radio Shack. We did our best to support Radio Shack's old customers, and we even tried to create a bit of that old community with our newsletters, products and programs.

What's most surprising about the resurgence in electronics as a hobby is that it has been driven by young people. From middle schools to high schools and universities, we're seeing a new breed of electronics hobbyists with exciting new energy. It's also heart-warming to see grandfathers and grandsons finding that they have electronics as a hobby in common (plus a few grandmothers and granddaughters). It's curious that in many cases the love for electronics seems to have skipped a generation.

There is a lot of passion wrapped up in both electronics as a hobby as well in Radio Shack and its evolution. Jameco sees plenty of future growth to come in this area, and from our pricing strategies to our product offering to our new Club Jameco website, we're doing everything we can to fuel passion for electronics as a hobby.

Do you miss the good old Radio Shack days? Take a moment to drop me a note and tell me your favorite Radio Shack memory and, if we get some good ones, we'll publish the best stories in next month's newsletter. Send your submission to [email protected].