@David: I fear they will die out completely, like Mock Electronics in Max's hometown...
They closed their doors at the end of Jan of this year -- a little tear rolled down my cheeks -- I'm just fortunate I managed to acquire those amazing old vacuum tubes before they closed thwir doors for ever...
Rick asked: Radio Shack needs to revitalize itself... become the retail outlet for the Make group. Whadaya think?
I see the problem as inventory. A retail store cannot afford to maintain a large inventory, so what do you stock? Meanwhile Amazon is working on same-day delivery. I'm not referring to those silly 'copters, but it would be practical for Amazon to ship to their drop boxes within hours, any day of the week, from nearby warehouses.
I don't see the Maker movement going away. Humans like to build things, or the lines wouldn't be so long at Home Depot. Sure, some corporations try to lock up their devices so that they're only suitable for consumers, but they limit their customer base and others fill in the gaps, if not in the USA then in plenty of other countries. Those countries are the ones who will win in STEM. If the USA wants to produce STEM, open documentation and hackable (in the good sense) products are necessities.
daleste wrote: I think RS will go the route of Heathkit.
Heathkit may be coming back. Currently they're in "stealth" mode, whatever that means. From the FAQs and the reddit comments, it sounds like they're seeing what products might be viable. Reading between the lines, it's most likely ham gear since that niche is too small to interest Asian competition.
Personally, I think they should go with electric car retrofits. Given the morass of electronic gewgaws that new cars shove down your throat, I think there's a niche market for people who want to make a simple, clean electric car without 10 million lines of undocumented code between the pedals, the engine, and the brakes.
The RS in your story carries a lot more variety than the one near me. Yours has Arduino and higher-end products, mine has mostly cell phones, cell accessories, batteries, and cables. Plus some basic connectors and discrete components in drawers, it's a real odd inventory.
When I first arrived in Australia, nearly 12 years ago, we had 2 electronics stores in town - Dick Smith - a chain started by a gentleman of the same name who was an entrepreneurial ex-telco technician, and a Tandy - Australian (in fact I think rest-of-world as I saw them in Paris as well) arm of RS.
Dick Smith sold out to a supermarket based chain who soon removed all the electronics bits (I got some real bargains there) and who have now onsold it again - it now only sells TVs, Phones, Laptops, printers, etc, and odd cables and batteries if you're lucky.
The Australian Tandys all closed but the franchisees of some of them - including in my town - went to a different supplier. They still stock electronics bits. but I probably have a better stock at home than they do....so very rarely buy that sort of thing. I occasionally need AV cables and the like, which both stores stock, but I always tend to patronise the ex-Tandy one first, because they stock more electronics bits and I'd like to keep them going.
Neither stock things like Ras PIs, I don't think there would be much of a market for them in our small (pop 35000) town.
It is sad that these shops are getting fewer and further between, but there is just so much stuff available these days that I doubt they could keep everyone happy, especially when (as someone above pointed out) you can get stuff via mail order so quickly). I fear they will die out completely, like Mock Electronics in Max's hometown, and they had some really tasty stuff. I'll certainly feel their loss, but I don't know that we can stop it.....
Funny you should mention this, brings back some memories. Long ago I worked at a Heathkit retail store in Winnipeg Canada, and there was a Radio Shack right next door. We enjoyed a bit of friendly rivaly, our H8 computer against their TRaSh 80 (as we jokingly referred to it).
The RS manager liked to build Heathkits. One day he came in with a digital clock pcb that did not work, I told him probably a solder bridge. He denied this, claiming he had thoroughly inspected his soldering. My trained eyes spotted the solder bridge in just a few seconds. He was slightly embarrased, but it worked after he removed the bridge.
I did send some business his way. One of Heathkit's most miserable failures was a general-coverage shortwave receiver (SW717). Even without an antenna connected, tuning across the dial produced oscillatory sounds like a scalded cat. When a customer came in wanting to buy one, I gently informed him that he would be much happier going next door.
RS has outlasted Heathkit, but with many RS stores stocking fewer parts for the hardware hobbyist it is understandable that they are in decline.
Ah, yes. Heath kit. I think RS will go the route of Heath kit. It is a shame since I spent a lot of time in RS during my high school years. I think there are too many better options today due to Frys and Digi-Key. RS will not survive. I wish I could build a Heath kit since I never got to do it in my younger days. Now I need to invent something new instead. Too much pressure.