A week or so ago, RadioShack (yes, The Shack) posted a blog entry entitled “RadioShack & The DIY Community: You Talked, We’re Listening“. The post is mostly a video from their brand manager which says they want to get back to their Do-It-Yourself roots. More importantly, they want their readers/customers to respond with what type of products RadioShack should be carrying to help this new DIY thing. Basically the post should been titled “We suck, please fix us”. Fortunately, Hack-A-Day rectified the situation for them with their own blog post, “Help RadioShack suck less“.
What I’d like to know right off is why didn’t RadioShack simply go to Maker Faire first, which started exactly 2 days after their blog post. Maker Faire is arguably the biggest mecca/gathering of Do-It-Yourselfers anywhere, so that seems like a logical place to start. Well, it turns out that they did go to Maker Faire. Another good idea would be for them to start reading Make magazine for some good market research.
Now, I like RadioShack well enough. It’s been mostly rendered useless in these modern days, which is probably why they want to re-invent themselves, but they are decent enough. My main problem is in their marketing effort of re-invention. Why not just come out and say “We went to Maker Faire, we saw the Arduino and the robots, let us know where you get your project ideas/list/equipment so we can work on providing the supplies you need”?
So what would I like to see? Well start with everything Arduino related. I don’t mean “have every shield” because that would be silly (not to mention near impossible), but you could certainly have a good selection of them. Additionally, The Shack should be working to carry the accessories that are commonly used with Arduino projects, such as: sensors, servos, motors and relays. Then once you’re done with that, go find the most popular chips for low level builders (555 anyone?). Of course the best (and most important) is left to last: Kits. Lots of kits. Anything and everything DIY that you can get in a kit, Shack should have (like the various Arduino starters that Make puts out). The important kits are the ones for kids – the learning kits. If you don’t get the next generation into building robots and general geekery, they might get into sports – then you’ve lost!
In the end, RadioShack/The Shack/ArduinoShack/WhomeverTheHellTheyAreNowShack has a good plan. The reason why they were useful, and that most people (like myself) go back is for the electronic components (resistors and such) while working on some DIY project. Granted my $3 in resistors once every few months isn’t going to keep them in business. If RadioShack did sell more (for example) Arduino gear, I’d totally be in there more. Who hasn’t wanted to impulse buy that random shield just to “try out” the latest crazy idea?