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Survey Says: RadioShack's Prices Are Too High & No One Shops Online

RadioShack wants to be rid of its dusty old image, but shoppers overwhelmingly turn to the retailer for emergencies rather than big purchases.
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Last week, RadioShack announced that it will close about 20% (or roughly 1,100) of its under-performing brick-and-mortar stores — a move that USA Today described as "an effort to remake itself for a more competitive era of electronics retailing." This is in line with the chain's noteworthy (and very expensive) ad that it ran during the Super Bowl, in which 1980s icons like Dee Snider ransacked the store, transforming it into a contemporary haven that sells things like "sexy products from Samsung and Beats."

But while RadioShack is trying to shed its old image and join the fray of vendors that shill cool electronics, there may be a problem: Shoppers don't seem to be buying it, according to a recent DealNews survey.

RadioShack Caters to DIY Techies & Last Minute Shoppers

We wanted to better understand what people are currently, actually buying from RadioShack, so we polled 2,021 of our readers to find out. And what we discovered is that, in the past year, they overwhelmingly turned to RadioShack for decidedly un-sexy product purchases.

The vast majority of shoppers either purchased small accessories (like chargers, memory cards, and cables) or what we like to call "hobby electronics" or DIY components (such as resistors and capacitors). These are not hip, buzzy tech items, to say the very least.


Moreover, we asked the people who didn't buy something at RadioShack in the past year what they thought people purchase there, and they overwhelmingly also selected accessories and DIY electronics. So, few people are actually buying "sexy" products from RadioShack, and no one seems to view those items as something that's in line with the brand's image, either. That will be a tough hurdle for RadioShack to clear.

The Retailer Will Close 1,100 Stores, But No One Is Shopping Online

A large part of being competitive in the modern retail landscape for electronics entails having a healthy, developed online presence. And regardless of whether RadioShack's ecommerce site is user-friendly and efficient, it appears as if no one is using it. A whopping 90% of people who bought something from RadioShack in the past year did so in-store.


Given the overall trend for retailers to lose in-store purchases to the internet, why would RadioShack experience the opposite to such an extreme degree? The key might be in what people are actually buying: accessories and hobby parts.

Shoppers Buy Accessories at RadioShack When They're in a Bind

A full 57% of people who purchased those aforementioned accessories described the purchase as "last minute" or an "emergency." (For example: You're on vacation and suddenly you realize that you forgot your phone charger — and the only option is to buy something in-store, even if it's more expensive than something you could find online.) Moreover, most people also perceive RadioShack shoppers as those who make last-minute purchases, too.

Conversely, buyers of hobby electronics were less likely to describe their purchase as last minute, but RadioShack has a long-standing reputation for these types of items (as you can see from the myriad comments we received from our readers here); that has apparently served the store well, perhaps earning it loyal customers for this niche category. But one has to wonder, with sites like Newegg becoming increasingly popular for DIYers on a budget, how long will that last?

RadioShack's Deals Don't Stack Up to Competitors

Perhaps the most damning thing we learned from our survey, however, is this: The number one reason why people don't shop at RadioShack is because they believe the prices are too high. That's not surprising when you consider the deal landscape; in 2014 thus far, we've seen more than 57 times as many deals from Best Buy than we have from RadioShack. Today's consumer has an overwhelming desire for discounts, so it seems unlikely that RadioShack will be able to capture a deal-savvy tech crowd without some changes to its pricing strategy as well.

Readers, what do you think of RadioShack's latest rebranding strategies? Would you shop there more if Hulk Hogan was involved? Sound off in the comments below.


Related DealNews Features:
Features Director

Lindsay Sakraida is the DealNews Features Director. She specializes in writing about shopping trends and lifestyle subjects. She's also obsessed with music, movies, and tennis. Follow her on Twitter at @LinSakraida.
Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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24 comments
meissen
My last two visits to Radio Shack were tremendously disappointing. I have always been able to count on the employees to give me some helpful advice but no one in the entire store had a clue about even the most basic audio accessories. I purchased an item that I didn't use - a roll of speaker wire that was covered over the wire part with shrink wrap. I returned it to a different store and the person behind the counter asked me if I had used any of the wire. I replied no, I believe it is covered in shrink wrap. She replied that there was a space at the top where I could have removed wire. Needless to say I was offended. I told her that by all means, unwind the roll and measure it. She came back at me that I didn't need to get upset. I said, "Really??? You just accused me of STEALING." I will NEVER go back to any Radio Shack again. No wonder that are going down fast.
linthead76
Radio Shack is a great drop off point for those batteries that you want to recycle. I stop by there to get rid of batteries more than for shopping. If I am looking for bargain electronics then there's a pawn shop next door to Radio Shack.
de1337er
They always had a niche market but it dwindled with online stores having an even larger variety of parts, so now they've nearly completely abandoned that niche to go for cellphones and stereos. Too bad Best Buy, Walmart and every other retailer were selling them first. A little late to the party RS....

They'd be doing their investors a favor to liquidate its assets and let independent franchise owners keep nothing but the name, so they can bring the name RadioShack back to what it actually was.
VERMINATOR
It's not so much overpriced as it is that when you go into one of their stores, you cannot beat the pushy sales clerks off of you (until it is time to check out, then you cannot find anyone.)
They also will try to steer you towards a higher priced item when you come in with a specific want in mind. ("No, you don't want that, it's junk. This over here is what you need.)
Sale items are lost never in stock at their stores.
That is why I do not go to Radio Shack
Meezer123
Terrible customer service: They advertised a good 1/2 M USB3 backup drive for under $50 last Fall (probably found it on DealNews). I really needed one for my new Lenovo & immediately went to the website intent on getting one. SURPRISE! They're 'out of stock' -- BUT available at my local store! (insert me throwing on shoes & racing thru traffic) The store didn't have them; never had them in stock. ???
Came home & on the website I 'backordered' the item and was to be notified when they had it again.
Waited a month & contacted the site asking IF/WHEN they would have the portable hard drive back in stock.
No response.
Another month -- No response.
Fortunately the TigerDirect people gave me a great deal when I told them about RS's lack of customer service.
I noted that the advertised hard drive is no longer available on the website; guess they weren't 'restocking' the end of last year ...
They lost this family of customers permanently.
HowardC
Radio Shack has a ton of problems really. Back in the day they sold toys, computers, electronics kits, various electronic components, cb radios and basically every high end product you coudl get at the time. Most importantly this was pre-internet, and since you couldn't get many of these items elsewhere, it was the place to go. In the early 2000's they started selling primarily cellphones. I don't know what genius decided on this direction, but literally every rat-shack in our state has a cell phone store right next to it, which offers better prices. Their components are over-priced now that you can buy the same stuff online for much less. Even their new direction has price issues. I can buy an arduino online for 40 bucks, or buy the exact same one in their store for 50 + tax + the cost of gas. Why would I buy it from them? They need to understand that they must offer either lower prices or products you can't get anywhere else.
carlosriosness
I was being a bit facetious, they are $1.79 at monoprice if you order 50+ ($2.03 for 1). i figure Radio Shack could order 10,000 units, maybe get that price down to $1.50 each and they can sell them for $2.00 to $2.50.... i think that could work.
wlau89
@carlosriosness to be fair I think $1.50 would be a ridiculous price. And B&M stores can't operate without higher margins on their products. The operating expense for a store can be extremely expensive. People got to eat too.
carlosriosness
great article. they should stop selling any name brand products. and literally sell MONOPRICE items only. i would run in to a radioshack for a $1.50 HDMI cable, vs buying online.

If Radio Shack became of the brick and mortar version of monoprice i think they would do really well. they probably wouldnt be able to keep products on the shelf!
401Kaboom
Remember "free" batteries, one per month, and free annual catalogs? Those built regular floor traffic, something 'The Shack' hasn't had in years. Radio Shack lost me as a regular visitor when they started charging for the previously free catalogs.

In the TRS-80 heyday, Radio Shack was selling virtually everything in the store, even clearance items, at a 50%-or-greater profit margin. High-margin add-ons back then like floppy disks, printer cables, dust covers, printer ribbons, and monitor anti-glare screens, made selling low-margin big-ticket PC's into a profitable venture.

Indeed people ARE still willing (begrudgingly) to pay an instant premium for instant, in-stock availability on small items. I still go to a Radio Shack a mile from my house when I need a connector or something that doesn't warrant a 30-mile drive across town to Fry's. So I pay 5 times the price for what SHOULD BE a $1 item, and still save $10 in gas.
Pilm
Bad news for all the old folks, going back to electronics supply ain't going to save RS, and even they know it, and that's why they aren't, wisely, going that direction! Yeah, when I was a teenager, it was cool to grab some parts and cobble together an AM radio. I loved my RS discovery electronics kit, it was great! But sorry man, teens today just aren't into that kind of stuff, especially when the electronics stuff they want is so darn cheap today! That wasn't the case when I was a kid, electronics were very expensive, so making something yourself saved a lot of money. No, RS needs a new direction, and they know it, however their options are extremely limited, and the competition in those avenues is fierce, and honestly I just don't think they got what it takes to make it happen.
ski522
Radio Shack, Sears, JC Penny, are perfect examples on how to NOT TO RUN a retail business. Saying brick & mortar is dead is silly...apparently stores like Macy's, Kohls, and Walmart didn't get that memo! Brick & Mortar stores don't need to be the cheapest, but they do need to have fair pricing, the price on just getting basic cables from Radio Shack is ridiculous, why do they think in today's age of instant price check via cell phone you can sell a cable for 5x what you can get from Amazon?!?!? Hopefully Radio Shack takes the heart of it's SB commercial and gets back to the store they once were...but the fact they dropped all that money for a 30 second spot in the SB tells me managment is not the brightest team in the world!
wlau89
That picture is hilarious.
4david
FINALLLLLYYY - their prices are the WORST. They have to be competitive. Instead they overcharge for EVERYTHING and just wait for the last minute people that have no time to go to best buy.

I hope they wake up. I only go when im desperate. Its the LAST RESORT for me.
Histry
I only go to Radio Shack when I need an electronic part like a replacement headphone plug. There is nothing else in the stores that is reasonably priced. I also resent being attacked by a store clerk when I already know what I want. Lastly, they always try to get my name and mailing address so they can send me a worthless catalog. If they want to stay in business, go back to stocking the electronic components they were once known for. My prediction is that management will listen to their fancy marketing consultants and then be out of business within two years.
Ricochet-Rabbit
I'd bring them back to their roots. Stock a huge amount of electronic components and offer repair kits such as "cap kits" for certain TVs that have a high occurrence of capacitor failures. Offer some decent tools and soldering stations.
Sell project kits in various skill levels to teach kids and adults about electronics. Carry Free to Air satellite systems along with decent antennas and rotators for OTA. Solar and wind power projects from toys to getting your home off the grid. Push HAM radio equipment. Cool security/spy camera stuff. Branch into appliance parts?
Bring back some of the mid to high end amps, receivers and speakers along with odd stuff like turntables.

Keep overhead down. No more than 1 store in a 30 mile radius and it doesn't need to be a fashion statement. Only ONE intelligent employee per shift, not some flake who should be selling clothes at the pretty boy store in the mall. Cater to that techie niche market! Best Buy, Target etc. have the sexy market cornered.
mrbib
I'll add one other point: price isn't everything. Don't get me wrong. I hate being ripped off or feeling that I overpaid. However, good return policies and knowledgeable staff matter a lot to me. I remember when Best Buy was cool (back in the late 1980s), but, today, I loathe even setting foot in the place. The employees don't care, the volume is too loud, the return policies keep getting tighter, and, frankly, prices are quite hit and miss.

I'll happily pay a bit more for a better walk-in shopping experience, the ability to return something if it's not working out for me for longer than two weeks, and employees that know about *value*.
mrbib
I've been a Radio Shack shopper for 30+ years. Of late, yes, the stores are just confused. In the past decade, I've bought at least three cell phones from them, mostly because the in-store service was quite good. Prices on phones have been similar to others. (They were actually cheaper on my most recent phone buy in December.)

They've also bailed me out for some components (resistors, caps, etc.). Closeout prices last year on Nintendo handhelds were excellent.

However, there was a time when Radio Shack sold some decent house-brand audio gear, but no more. I HATE shopping at Best Buy for televisions and audio components because the stores are too noisy and improperly lit. This is something RS could really excel at, especially if they kept the margins under control, and employees interested and attentive. (I did have one experience in January where one local store's employees didn't even acknowledge my presence for the five minutes I was in the store, even standing at the counter.)
wordsmythe
Honestly, I only go to Radio Shack for emergencies and even then I honestly HATE to walk into the store...

Time after time, I find the staff is woefully uninformed on the products they carry, only interested in pushing their current promotion, and getting me into their computer.

Perfect example: One clerk didn't know what a SATA cable was OR that they even carried them until I pulled an overpriced one off his pegboard wall and wanted to buy it because I was desperate. But yet he still pitched me on a cell phone promotion and tried to get my name and address for their computer. (When they ask, I tell them my name is "Cash," just "Cash.")

If they go away completely, I honestly won't miss them, and I feel there will be another retailer who will take up the slack.
egruber
I only go there for hobby electronic parts such as capacitors, etc. They are also a good source for obscure watch batteries that other retailers don't carry. If they close, there are no more physical stores to purchase these items. I can't think of anyone who carries them. Audio was once a big seller there, but now they have nothing. Video? I think they have 1 TV for sale. And phones? You can get them anywhere. Other than parts, I don't know what their niche is anymore.
nodeal
randallmagg is 100% correct......i don't even remember the last time i went to RadioShack......prices/selections=sucks!
randallmagg
When I worked at RadioShack, the majority of customers seemed to be people who have been going for decades and was remaining loyal and/or didn't realize that the prices at RS were considerably higher than elsewhere.
jlanda
Ditto to the virtio comment. I am old enough to remember the old days when you could build almost any electronic device from the parts they had. Would returning to the good old dusty origins be that bad?
virtio
When I walk by Radio Shack it looks like a cellphone store. They hide all the electronics stuff in the back of the store. There are already several other cellphone stores in the mall so I don't see why they push them so much. Most of the other electronics are readily available at larger stores like Best Buy, Officemax and Staples which offer larger selections. Personally I would find the store a lot more interesting if it were like a hobby or craft store like Michael's. Maybe offer workshops in basic electronics, programming or 3D printing. It's a great way to get customers involved in your products and offer services that you can't easily get online. For example, you can buy a kit and take a class to learn how to assemble or mod it. Just a thought.
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