Why Radio Shack is Failing

I associate Radio Shack with the DIY crowd - folks who probably know more than average about electronic componentry, or at least enough to be dangerous, and need someplace to get raw materials.

Now, people can talk about how there’s retail competition and all that noise, but I think differently. Let me lay the scene:

I just put up some new surround speakers in my game room. The receiver I have in there doesn’t have the fancy Audyssey sound balance microphone thingamajig on it so I have to balance the sound the old-school way: either by ear or with a meter. Where do you get a sound meter? Radio Shack.

I went into the store and the floor space of the place was only about 1000 square feet. The front half of the store was all cell phones and RC cars and so forth. The back half consisted of three aisles, each of which had the gadgets and doo-dads I normally associate with Radio Shack. Being the only customer in the store, I walked up to the desk and asked the lady there, “Where would I find a sound meter?”

“…Sound meter?”

“Yes, a sound meter… SPL meter… sound pressure level meter… you know, something that measures the volume of sound. A sound meter.”

She stood there for a second with a blank look on her face, then looked around the shop. “Um…” She came out from behind the counter and started walking down each aisle, in turn, gazing around without actually looking at anything on the shelves. Then she called to the back for help.

A guy came out of the back and we went through the whole “what-is-a-sound-meter” thing again. After that he, too, went down each aisle, but he went much faster, emulating “purpose.” After visiting each of the three aisles a couple of times, we finally ended in the middle aisle where, lo and behold, they had not one but two models available - a digital ($50) and an analog ($15).

“What’s the difference between these two models?” I asked.

Two blank faces. “Um…”

“You know what? $15. Done.” I bought the analog meter (which, by the way, worked perfectly for my purposes) and that was that.

Thing is, if I was looking for something more technical than a sound meter, what would have happened? I mean, I don’t expect much from people, but you’ve only got 1000 square feet of product, and only half of that is actually anything of substance. You don’t know where stuff is or even what you have?

That, my friends, is why Radio Shack is failing.