RadioShack, one of the great American retail brands, has struggled after a series of changes that essentially un-geeked the brand. We wrote about it on August 1 2007, in our post “The Solution for Radio Shack’s Problems.”
It was a long post, but please read it. BrandlandUSA’s solution for Radio Shack was essentially to go back to what they were: a common ground where enthusiasts and everyday homeowners could not only solve their electronics problems, but dream up new problems to solve.
Thankfully, the chain is taking steps in this direction. They have launched Invention Lab Powered by RadioShack. Published by O’Reilly’s Make e-zine, it has credible electronics roots. The site is a place where enthusiasts can post the funky things they have created with things found at RadioShack, including hobbyist Bob Pagani’s (is he real????) wacky Homeland Security Helmet.
While I am not sure I would want one, I definitely voted for Bob so he could win the $250 RadioShack prize for most popular inventions. (Please do; it will be fun to see what he comes up with next.) After all, with $250 more, who knows what else Bob could make with RadioShack stuff; if it is pretend, it sure is fun! Innovation and invention is a process. And while I don’t think the helmet will do a lot to help homeland security, that is not the point. The point is that if we have a country filled with folks like Bob Pagani, no terrorist would dare take us on.
A separate side-note. Guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter has become an amateur defense analyst; he might be a good spokesman for RadioShack as he embodies that great American spirit that RadioShack is trying to unleash. He is quoted on Wikipedia as saying:
“We thought turntables were for playing records until rappers began to use them as instruments, and we thought airplanes were for carrying passengers until terrorists realized they could be used as missiles,” he has said. “My big thing is to look at existing technologies and try to see other ways they can be used, which happens in music all the time and happens to be what terrorists are incredibly good at.”
Back to RadioShack and its Invention Lab (the background art is a pegboard!) It’s not all wacky. For instance, it has a USB portable charger made with parts like a .99 cent 150 ohm 1/2W 5% Carbon Film Resistor. Remember, RadioShack can’t compete with Target and Best Buy on consumer electronics, but it can sell stuff like resistors, which have great margins.
RadioShack has a long way to go to get out of its current spot; it’s hard to turn around a chain with so many stores, and it will take many more small steps to do that. And it is also difficult to launch a user-based website; it takes a lot of stick-to-it-ive-ness. But the good thing is that RadioShack is taking the right steps, and in the process it is encouraging Americans to make things again.