December 24, 2014

One of my fondest memories as a kid was riding my bike to our local Radio Shack to see what was new. What items, just in, might ultimately make my birthday list or Christmas list.  As I grew older, Radio Shack or RS became the go-to place for kits, electrical components and a dose of education the sales personnel were always willing to impart. RS provided me with my first do-it-yourself kit AND their personnel gave me schooling on how to properly solder components into a “bread-board”.  RS has come under fire recently and is in a struggle to remain a viable retail outlet.   They are laying off workers and closing stores in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy. The company is trying to save $400 million with the electronics retailer is reeling from a $161 million loss during the three-month period that ended November 1.  The 93-year-old, 4,000-store company closed 175 stores this year (2014) and is planning to close an additional 1,000 stores. We may be seeing the dying gasps of a company that once meant quite a bit to those interested in home electronics.

RadioShack could follow in the footsteps of many other huge retailers that have declared bankruptcy in the past decade: Circuit City, Blockbusters, Borders, and Linens ‘n’ Things, to name a few. In each of these cases, there were mass layoffs and store closures that affected tens of thousands of workers and their families.


RadioShack traces its roots to two separate and very different entrepreneurial ventures:  The Hinckley-Tandy Leather Company, a supplier of leather shoe parts to shoe repair shops founded in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1919; and RadioShack, a retail store and mail-order operation that was established in Boston in 1921 to serve the needs of radio officers aboard ships.  RadioShack quickly grew to encompass a handful of stores in the Northeast, as well as a successful electronics mail-order business. The Hinckley-Tandy Leather Company also prospered, and in 1954, it sold its flagship leather business to expand its scope of operations. In 1959, the company shortened its name to Tandy Corporation, and in 1963, Tandy Corporation acquired RadioShack, marking the company’s start as a personal electronics retailer.  In 2000, Tandy Corporation changed its name to RadioShack Corp., listing on the NYSE under ticker symbol RSH.

After beginning with one Texas store, the Radio Shack portion of the company branched out into the electronic catalog business. The first Radio Shack catalog came out in the early 1940s. The company entered the growing high-fidelity market in 1947, opening the nation’s first audio showroom where people could compare amps, speakers, and turntables.

Here’s a brief look at important dates and milestones for RadioShack across the past century…

  • 1919: Two friends start the Hinckley-Tandy Leather Company in Fort Worth, Texas, supplying leather shoe parts and supplies to repair shops.
  • 1921: Two brothers open the first “Radio Shack” in Boston, a small retail and mail-order business supplying ship radio equipment and “ham” radios. They borrowed the name for the store from the small wooden structure onboard ships that housed the radio equipment.
  • 1935: A predecessor of present-day RadioShack Corp. lists shares for trading on the NYSE.
  • 1947: Radio Shack opens the first audio showroom to feature speakers, amplifiers, turntables and phonograph cartridges. Also that year, Charles D. Tandy joins the family business and would soon begin to chart a new direction for the company’s expansion.
  • 1954: Radio Shack sells its leather operations to a New England firm and embarks on a capitalization plan to finance future expansion.
  • 1959: Charles Tandy is elected as chairman of the board. The company is renamed Tandy Corp. and officially moves the headquarters to Fort Worth.
  • 1959: Tandy Corp. sells its first Realistic CB radio.
  • 1963: Tandy acquires Boston-based “Radio Shack” (as the retailer was then styled).
  • 1972: The Company sells its first all-electronic calculator.
  • 1977: RadioShack introduces the first mass-marketed, fully assembled personal computer, the TRS-80, with a Level II BASIC operating system created by Bill Gates. The TRS-80 is warmly remembered in the technology community to this day; by the 1980s, RadioShack comes to be known as “the biggest name in little computers.”
  • 1978: Charles D. Tandy dies. Later, the Fort Worth community erects a statue memorializing his visionary entrepreneurialism near the company’s headquarters downtown. In 2009, the statue was relocated to Tandy Hall at Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of Business.
  • 1983: The Company introduces the “Model 100” laptop, the first of its kind in the computer industry.
  • 1984: Radio Shack sells its first mobile phone.
  • 1985: The Company starts selling satellite television systems and service.
  • 1994: RadioShack begins offering free rechargeable battery recycling, responsibly disposing of more than 7 million pounds of rechargeable batteries to date.
  • 2000: Tandy Corp. changes its name to RadioShack Corp.; later relisting shares on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker “RSH.”
  • 2004: RadioShack launches kiosk sales segment in partnership with national wireless carrier and big-box retail partner.
  • 2005: RadioShack Corp. moves headquarters to new Riverfront Campus along Trinity River in downtown Fort Worth.
  • 2005: RadioShack becomes an Authorized Apple Reseller and later introduces Skype-certified hardware and software in stores for free voice- and video-calling over the Web.
  • 2008: RadioShack launches Trade & Save, a trade-in program that allows customers to trade used devices at no cost, no matter where they were purchased, for credit toward a new purchase. RadioShack also acquires full ownership of RadioShack de Mexico.
  • 2009: RadioShack concludes an extensive two-year grass-roots education campaign with the American Library Association to assist consumers in navigating the nationwide conversion to digital television broadcasting in high-definition, which earned a special commendation from the FCC in 2010.
  • 2011: RadioShack introduces Verizon Wireless, the nation’s largest wireless carrier, and its industry-leading products and services in stores nationwide. Along with AT&T and Sprint, consumers can choose from all three top post-paid carriers as well as a range of pre-paid options.
  • 2012: The Company introduces RadioShack No Contract Wireless in recognition of the growing popularity of pre-paid plans.
  • 2013: RadioShack introduce our new brand and opens the doors of our first concept store in Manhattan in July 2013. We later open our first custom concept store paying homage to our hometown and technology heritage in the popular Sundance Square area of downtown Fort Worth.
  • 2013: RadioShack launches the unparalleled “IT Happens” protection plan in November, offering same-day in-store replacement for qualifying products priced less than $300 and many more benefits through a simple in-store claim process.
  • 2013: By the end of 2013, the company will have made improvements to nearly all 4,300 U.S. company-owned stores. This includes more than 100 concept and brand statement stores, which feature bright, completely redesigned interiors and new exterior signage.
  • Today: RadioShack employs more than 27,000 associates and has a vast retail network that includes more than 4,400 company-operated stores across the United States and Mexico and more than 1,200 dealer and other outlets worldwide. With that unparalleled network of expert associates and neighborhood stores, RadioShack is inviting customers to experience the mobile and connected opportunities of their devices, marrying customers’ needs with associates’ knowledge.


Let’s take a quick look at several images that will give a better idea as to the store and its early merchandise.

The JPEG below is the very first Radio Shack store in Boston.  As you can see, humble beginnings. One store with the right idea, at least for the time period.


The JPEG below is not that readable but does show the variety of products RS sold throughout their stores.  Over time, many additional franchises were added so that today multiple stores occupy locations in the same city.


RS was one of the very first to market and sell home computers to the masses.  As you can see from the digital below, one very famous individual, Bill Gates, was used in an advertisement for the Tandy 2000, a revolutionary device that promised to greatly lessen the time to process mundane tasks.


Another product in the computer line was the TRS-80.  It was an instant best seller and was the forerunner to products we take a commonplace today.  Tandy 2000 and the TRS-80 provided the purchasing public with a glimpse of things to come relative the computing world.



I think it is very sad that Radio Shack is having difficulties and they are losing management personnel that could possibly “right the ship”.  Retail is an extremely difficult way to make a living today with mail-order taking so much sales in the marketplace.  I for one definitely hope RS can make it through these tough times.  Hopefully, they will make efforts to place laid off employees in other positions of responsibility.


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