Radio Shack’s latest survival strategy: Close stores

  • Photo 1 of 4

    The original RadioShack store, opened in Boston, MA, 1921

    - Mike D'Alessio (

  • Photo 2 of 4

    Interior of a RadioShack from the 1950's

    - Mike D'Alessio (

  • Photo 3 of 4

    A RadioShack in Sioux City, Iowa, 1970

    - Mike D'Alessio (

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    A RadioShack in Central New York, 1976

    - Mike D'Alessio (

The front page of the 1981 RadioShack Catalogue

Radio Shack announced today that it could be closing more than 1,000 of its stores. Sales are way down for the electronics retailer. The company is trying to remake itself as a place to buy cell phones. It's not the first time the company has tried to be the go-to-store for new electronic products. 

"We were kind of the parts place. You could go and get resisters, transistors capacitors, that type of thing," says Illinois State marketing professor Gary L Hunter. For 17 years he worked Radio Shacks in North Carolina and Kentucky.

And Hunter worked at the company in the eighties, when a new product came along called "the computer."

"I sold Tandy Computers, Compaq computers, we sold IBM computers for a while," says Hunter.

The company, in its latest incarnation, wants to be mobile phone store. But it's not working.

"It's tough for any retailer to sell and make significant margins on cell phones" says George Low is Dean of the Neely School of Business at Texas Christian University.

So how has Radio Shack managed to stay alive? They're everywhere.

"It's convenient for people to go pick up whatever it is they need to pick up and that's why they've survived," Low says.


For more vintage RadioShack photos and catalogues, check out RadioShackCatalogs.

About the author

David Weinberg is a reporter for KCRW and former staff reporter at Marketplace.

The front page of the 1981 RadioShack Catalogue


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