Companies come and go all the time. This is part of the constructive and destructive nature of capitalism. You don’t get mad at change, and death. You adapt to it, and accept it.  Death is a part of life.  

That said, there are some companies and brands that are hard wired into our emotions (think of companies such as Apple today), and it hurts a little when they fade away. The Radio Shack franchise was one of them for me in my childhood.

Radio Shack is not at present ‘out of business,’ but it is a mere shell of what it once was.  A shell of what it was when I was growing up as a kid in Compton, California.

I remember buying my first computer before I was like 10 years old, from Radio Shack.  It was a computer board, because that was all I could afford, and back then, it pretty much all that was available to the consumer public.  But that first computer board from Radio Shack changed my life.  It sparked my imagination, and my ongoing fascination with computers, gadgets and technology, to this very day.

But Radio Shack has changed almost completely since the time of my childhood.  Okay, completely.  

Times change, and companies have to change and adapt with the times.  Thus, Radio Shack went from the place that community gadget and geek heads hung out, to a place later where you could purchase the affordable, Radio Shack ‘branded’ alternative to whatever Sony, IBM, Compaq (a company from that era), Dell, Apple and a ton of other companies were producing at top dollar price points.  Radio Shack promised that you would get the same quality at a much reduced price.  And then low cost China production entered the picture, technology innovation broadened and deepened, and prices crashed broadly across the technology landscape.  And there you have it — the moment when Radio Shack began to lose its way.

And then the mistakes of ‘market positioning’ for Radio Shack began.  And a fatal mistake was basically becoming like everyone else — simply choosing to sell everyone else’s products — but just in a much smaller store footprint.  Think about Best Buys, but at like 5% of the space and inventory. The company just lost its storyline.

Radio Shack filed for bankruptcy in March, 2015, and the new owners have been trying to figure out where they go from here.  This I know — if you are going to be in the electronics and technology space, and if you are going to have an average of 1,000 square feet stores or less, then you need to not only focus on a niche market, you need to OWN it.  Sometimes less is more.  Maybe not appropriate today, but the Radio Shack model of my childhood was pretty brilliant, actually.

John Hope Bryant

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