So I have a kind of fondness for the old girl, with their odd mix of down market A/V products and DIY gear. They always seemed to manage to hit this middle ground between hobbyists, enthusiasts, and bargain hunters, with the occasional genre busting wildcard, ala the venerable TRS 80 or any number of head scratching audio offerings (for instance, they started putting Lineaum ribbon tweeters into cheap bookshelf speakers for no apparent reason, other than someone in the company though it was cool and got to do it). And then there was the portable CD player that had the audio press in fits of rapture, but only if you ran it off the batteries. I have no idea. But then that's the wonder of the thing.
But as far as I can make out, Radio Shack has entered a period (or has been in a period for a while) of complete cluelessness as to how to proceed. Like, falling apart before our eyes.
I don't have any figures on this, but my guess is that the Radio Shack empire was built on a post-war golden age of tinkering and the first big wave of "Hi Fi" hobbyists. That was always the main part of the mix: parts and audio gear. Ok, batteries and cheap RF junk.
I always had the feeling that the people running Radio Shack were sort of like that. Tinkerers at heart. Possibly a tad insane. So: a very eccentric product mix, with some stuff that only an engineer could love. Amazingly hit and miss managerial styles, franchise to franchise, as if, when you sign on, they give you a key to the front door and tell you to just wing it, as long as you can sell some shit. If that means piling stock in the middle of aisles and hiring spooky oddballs, so be it. Really, not another store like it, for better or worse.
But nowadays when I walk into a Radio Shack I never know what store I'm going to enter. Seems like they feel like the old, low margin "I think I'll buy a cheap RF thing and a cheap PA thing and a cheap LCD thing and some wire and see what I can make" isn't cutting it anymore, so they're moving into Sharper Image lifestyle electronics n' gifts territory.
Like, hideously overpriced, insanely over-packaged "robotics" sets. Or entire walls of their take on the little battery powered car craze of a few years ago, but with a whole line of "modding" parts for far too much money. Fucking ionizers. Fucking iPods. I'm sorry, Radio Shack cannot have iPods. It's like running into a big Sonoma Williams display at the corner liquor store. Just conceptually wrong.
And, of course, cell phones, which sometimes seem like what's keeping the doors open.
I think they've cleaned house and gotten rid of the weirdoes and are endeavoring to become some kind of proper, well lit, expensive toy store.
And I think it's a shame. The Radio Shack of my youth was always a slightly scurrilous place, patronized by people who either didn't know any better or knew perfectly well.
There are plenty of nice stores to buy nice things. Radio Shack, bravely, was a half-assed store to buy cobbled together things, in the company of the like minded. I'll miss it.