RadioShack still has no plans to reopen post-pandemic
Circuit City can stay dead though.
It’s damn unfortunate that RadioShack has no plan to reopen because Logitech is having a field day with the increased demand for work-at-home supplies. Speakers, cameras, microphones, keyboards, and peripherals are what you’d usually find in the front section of a RadioShack (near the end, alongside airplane magazine tech) and they are selling like crazy.
Even under pandemic situations, you could still imagine that RadioShack would have remained open as while it was focused on the technology side of it, it still could be classified as a hardware store. If ACE Hardware can remain open, so could the place where you had to go to pick up that one single A/V converter or carbon-composition resistor. Alas, RadioShack has been replaced by Monoprice.
Monoprice is where you can purchase a 3ft HDMI cable for $2.75. There is little discernible difference in the quality of HDMI cables and I feel like if more people were aware of this, they wouldn’t be shopping at places like Best Buy, which makes its profit by marking up ancillary items like HDMI cables to ridiculous prices. Its run-of-the-mill standard 4ft HDMI cable is regularly priced at $19.99.
So it’s no wonder Best Buy is struggling right now. While it has seen a jump in work-at-home product sales, it has also been closed to the public since March and furloughed 51,000 employees. Sure, you can get your iPhone repaired there, but Best Buy — like Circuit City before it — is easily replaced by the shopping we can do online. Yes, it’s nice to touch things now and then, but when companies like Newegg exist, why spend more just because you don’t know better?
Newegg is the future of tech buying, save for kitchen appliances — but Lowe’s carries large appliances. Best Buy can’t survive on those. Small margins anyway. The point is that we could see a very different Best Buy at the end of all this. The large box store model is dying, it was dying when Best Buy outpaced Circuit City and this pandemic could be its death kneel. We might not want to congregate in large box stores anymore when we can do most of our shopping online.
The argument against that is that online shopping is not a new concept, but this pandemic has forced a lot of previously Luddite customers into embracing online shopping for their tech needs. From Amazon to Newegg to even Best Buy, Walmart, and Target — the retailers that handle online shopping the best will survive this the most intact. That means clean UI interfaces, appropriate stock, and good customer service. But there will and should be some attrition.
Ace Hardware (yes, again) has survived against Home Depot and Lowe’s because it provides a singular product selection alongside a larger, more common stock. That is, you can buy a single screw at Ace. You could buy a single fuse at RadioShack. That kind of service, on a smaller, neighborhood-level is what the future of retail could look like — coming full circle. Sure, you can curbside pickup at Best Buy, but sure as shit, you can get a better deal on whatever you are buying at Newegg or Monoprice.
This pandemic is giving consumers a chance to reevaluate their shopping habits
Why are we beholden to a massive box store like Best Buy when we can get an HDMI cable for 86% less at Monoprice? We have the chance now to make retail great again by stripping away the price gouging, forcing retailers to remodel their pricing, structure, and offerings. Walmart did it with its Walmart Neighborhood Market stores. A smaller store offering essentials at lower prices.
A store like RadioShack could make a comeback now with two things in place — a comprehensive, singular online marketplace offering niche and specific electronics purchasing (similar to Monoprice) and small retail outlets carrying competitive small tech items like cameras, peripherals, laptops and so on. RadioShack died because it was still carrying tech for the engineers of the previous century. It didn’t adapt, so it died. It could live again.
Maybe I’m just nostalgic, or maybe I’m just watching retail go through a major catastrophe and wondering what the future of it looks like. With tens of millions unemployed, are we going to actually shop at the luxury malls that have sprung up in the place of standard malls?
The Orange Julius has been replaced by Louis Vitton and no food court. Is this sustainable now? Likely not. We’re more frugal, we’re more concerned with finding deals and keeping our families fed. We don’t want to pay $20 for an HDMI cable. Technology retail needs to change. Maybe this is the time for that change.
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