Radio Shack Puts Cart Before Horse

Radio SHack DeadImage created by Ryan Johnson. Original photo by Amanda Lee, courtesy of

Marketing 101: Take a Good Look at Yourself

This morning, Howard Stern did a 20-minute bit on the horrible experiences he has had in the past at Radio Shack, capitalizing on yesterday’s announcement that Radio Shack is closing up to 1,100 stores.


Radio SHack Dead
Image created by Ryan Johnson. Original photo by Amanda Lee, courtesy of

A month ago, Radio Shack was being lauded for their Super Bowl commercial, announcing that they were remaking their stores, in an attempt to change the store’s image as a relic of the 80s.

The problem, in my eyes, is not that the store seems dated. It’s that (and I was there to experience this), even in the 80s and 90s, Radio Shack was known for having high prices and crappy service. The only difference now is that people have other options.

The choices that the internet offers has empowered customers to tell poorly run companies like Radio Shack to go pound sand. I would argue that the company put the cart before the horse with the Super Bowl ad. The ad announcing “we’re back and better” followed by a mass bloodletting does not inspire confidence. Bob Garfield disagrees with me, noting: 

Radio Shack, like JC Penney, has not addressed the fundamental problems with their business. All the Super Bowl ads in the world will not change the fact that these are unpleasant places to shop. I think the damage at this point is irreversible, so the 4$ million (not including production costs) that the company spent on the Super Bowl ad will just be another write off in the eventual bankruptcy filing or dissolution of the company.

While Mr. Garfield notes that the Super Bowl ad may be the company’s first step back to respectability and profit, it’s all window dressing without a true reckoning as to what is broken in their business. What happens when someone sees the ad, comes into the store and has the same crappy experience as always?

Until companies get honest with themselves about who they are and why they aren’t appealing to customers, and stop relying on fancy band-aids like Super Bowl ads, they will continue down the long road to obscurity. Make room on the bench, Circuit City, Radio Shack is coming to join you!


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