Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
RadioShack Corporation (formerly Tandy Corporation) runs a chain of electronics retail stores in the United States, as well as parts of Europe. As of 2003, it has more than 7,000 stores in the USA, and reported net sales and operating revenues of $4.6 billion. The head office of RadioShack is located in Fort Worth, Texas. The Canadian counterpart of RadioShack is run by a separate company, however its future is now in doubt (see Operations in Canada).
RadioShack's proprietary brands include Optimus (video equipment—discontinued), Realistic (sound equipment—discontinued), Archer (wiring and antennas-discontinued), and Enercell (batteries and power accessories).
The first 40 years
The company was started as Radio Shack in 1921 in Boston, Massachusetts, by two brothers, Theodore and Milton Deutschmann, who wanted to provide equipment for the cutting-edge field of amateur, or ham, radio. The store's name was taken from the name of the small structure that housed a ship's radio equipment at the time.
The company issued its first catalog in the early 1940s and then entered the high-fidelity music market. In 1954, Radio Shack began selling its own private-label products under the brand name Realistic. After expanding to nine stores plus an extensive mail-order business, the company fell on hard times in the 1960s.
The Tandy years
In 1963 it was bought by the Tandy Corporation (which was originally a leather goods corporation) and renamed Tandy Radio Shack. Tandy eventually got rid of everything but electronics. Tandy also operated a chain similar to Radio Shack in the UK during the 1970s and 1980s, but under the Tandy name.
In 1977, Radio Shack introduced the TRS-80, one of the first mass-produced personal computers. Affectionately known as the Trash-80, the machine became a big hit. In the late 1980s, Radio Shack made the transition between its proprietary lines of 8-bit computers to its line of more-or-less IBM-compatible Tandy series of computers. However, shrinking margins and lack of economies of scale led Radio Shack to exit the computer manufacturing market by the mid-1990s.
Radio Shack had another big hit with products designed to take advantage of the Family Radio Service, a short-range walkie-talkie system. Since the mid-1990s, the company has attempted to move into the consumer small components markets, focusing on marketing wireless phones.
Its slogan since 1994 has been "You've got questions, we've got answers."
In May 2000 the company dropped the Tandy name altogether, instead opting for RadioShack contracted into one CamelCase word. The logo had been changed from the 70's-style bullethole lettering to the current stylized R in 1996.
Also in 2000, the company-owned Realistic and Optimus brands were discontinued when the company entered into an agreement to carry RCA products, although Radio Shack hasn't made products under the Realistic name since the early 1990's. RS also has their own brand of batteries.
Many Radio Shack stores still carry products dating as far back as the 1980's. Older Radio Shack products feature the old logo, which was dropped after 1995; at which the name Radio Shack was contracted into the CamelCase word, RadioShack. Many old Realistic, Archer, and Optimus products can still be found also.
Until 2001, RadioShack was notorious for asking for the names and addresses of customers who made even minor purchases so they could be added to the mailing list. Theories regarding the discontinuation of this practice include:
- CEO Len Roberts made a purchase at a RadioShack store and realized how annoying it was. This is a stretch, since at least once a year, every member of management has to work a full shift on the sales floor of a randomly selected store—he would have known far before then.
- Concern over identity theft. The name, address, phone number, and banking information of people would have been available to anyone accessing the system.
Operations in Canada
The Canadian counterpart of RadioShack is run by a company called InterTan, acquired in 2004 by Circuit City. However, RadioShack sued InterTan one week after the purchase, claiming that InterTan had breached the terms of their agreement. On March 24, 2005, a U.S. district court judge ruled in favor of RadioShack and cancelled their agreement, meaning that all 950 RadioShack stores in Canada must stop using the brand name in any of their products, packaging or advertising by June 30. Circuit City, however, plans an appeal.
Operations in France
InterTan operated Tandy stores in France, selling standard RadioShack brands, Realistic, Optimus and Archer. Sales people sometimes came from the French-speaking Québec. The French subsidiary went bankrupt and closed by the end of December 1993. Sales representatives blamed this on accepting to sell non-store brands (eg. IBM laptops) with too small margins.
- Farman, Irvin (1992). Tandy's Money Machine: How Charles Tandy Built Radio Shack into the World's Largest Electronics Chain. Chicago: The Mobium Press.
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