Thursday, February 12, 2015

Radio Shack Bankruptcy

The Radio Shack location near
North Park University
     On February 5th, Radio Shack filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.  The company and brand have been struggling for years for a variety of reasons. 
     I am sorry to see them go. I am part of the reason they are going under. I used to be a customer.  I was never a great customer but I was a more frequent customer than I have been this century.  I would go there to by cords or wires for playing music.  Back in the day, music stores did not carry everything.  As I played the oud, the pickups we used to use did not always have the standard guitar quarter inch jack system.  Thus, there was a need to by adapters and odd cords.  Where did you go for such things?  Radio Shack of course.  Even our amplifies had small fuses in them.  Radio Shack carried those too.  They pretty much had anything I needed in terms of wiring up any instruments to amps and any kind of "patch" cord I might need for my various vintages of home stereos.  
     How often did I go?  A few times a year.  No matter where I was, there was always a Radio Shack near by.  Often this came in handy as we would be setting up for a gig and we would need to seek out a Radio Shack to buy a particular doohickey or thingamabob.  This century I went to a Radio Shack three times.  I made an emergency run to buy a patch cord to play an iPod through a sound system at my cousin's daughters wedding.  I bought a remote headphone set.  The last time I went was to buy a USB microphone to better record youtube lecture videos. 
     These days, I rarely go.  The cords have all been standardized and almost everything I need can be found at music stores.  Or... they can be bought online.  For most odd things, Amazon has it.  Oh that USB microphone?  Radio Shack didn't have it, so I bought it online.
     So, I am sorry to see them go.  But, this is nostalgia.  People feel a nostalgic loss when a store that was important to them goes out of business.  People in Detroit still lament the loss of J. L. Hudson's especially the downtown store.  Folks in Chicago do the same with Marshall Fields.  In New York, it is B. Altman's.  There will be many that will miss Radio Shack.  There is one thing in common about all these examples.  When we talk about them and how we are sorry to see them go, we always relate our experiences in the past tense.  I used to go.  I remember when, as a kid, we used to go there and...
     Stores close for many reasons.  It could be bad management.  It could be changes in the market place that renders a place or product useless.  In all cases, something happened to cause people to stop frequenting the business.  It is not necessarily abrupt but the erosion is relentless and deadly.  When it finally comes, we feel bad and move on.  I imagine I will write about Sears in the same way one day.  Actually, I cannot believe they are still operating.
     Of the many reasons Radio Shack going away, we have to first consider their name:  Radio Shack.  Both words are anachronistic i.e. words, as says, that are "chronologically out of place".  Radio?  Shack?  Both words alone speak of things that don't fit in the America of today.
     We only have radios in our cars these days.  I cannot remember the last I even thought about listening to the radio anyplace but in the car.  If I wanted to listen to a radio in my house, I would have to stream the station via the internet because I am not sure there is even a radio in the house.  Sure, satellite radio is really popular.  Most who use satellite radios have them in their cars, a few buy devices that they can carry around with them but I doubt they bought them at Radio Shack.
     Radio Shack started to support ham radio enthusiasts.  Please would build or buy these ham systems and communicate with others around the world in Morse Code or voice.  Yes, Morse Code.  Ham radio was the Facebook and chatroom of yore.  Radio Shack helped the ham operators keep their sets running because they were tube based and tubes wore out all the time.  They were there to assist ham operators upgrade their systems from antennas to Morse code keys. Today, we have cell phones that allow us to text and Skype people anywhere in the world.  There is no need for radios.  They are a thing of the past too.
     How about the word shack?  What are we sharecroppers?  Who wants to go to any kind of shack.  A radio shack is probably what the Army called them in WWII.  It was good then, but not evoking quality and high tech electronics these days.  OK, the word shack still works for restaurants.  Think about going to a rib shack.  There was a well publicized IPO this year of a fast food burger restaurant called Shake Shack.  
      An Op Ed piece in the February 8, 2015 Wall Street Journal, Radio Shack Suffered as Time Evaporated:  

In 1963, the year his company bought a nine-store chain then known by the two-word name Radio Shack, Charles D. Tandy explained to the New York Times why it made perfect sense for a retailer of do-it-yourself leather handicrafts to buy an electronics distributor.
“Leisure time is opening markets to us,” he told the Times. “The shorter workweek, human curiosity, idle hands—all offer opportunities in this business. Everyone’s spare time is our challenge.”
     Maybe the demise of leisure time is partly to blame here.  This will have to be the subject of another blog. 

1 comment:

  1. On February 5th, Radio Shack filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company and brand have been struggling for years for a variety ...