The Plan To Save RadioShack

A few days after the launch of the latest iPhone and we still have lines out the doors of Apple Stores around the world. I was in this one on Friday. It truly was insane.

This stands in stark contrast to the recent news about RadioShack. Impending bankruptcy will probably drag this out for years, but the writing on the wall seems clear: the once-dominant consumer electronics retailer is going to die.

And that’s too bad. I, like so many people of my generation, have fond memories of the chain from my youth. It was the place to go and discover that anything and everything was possible with electronics. It was, in a way, the Apple Store of its day.

Okay, that’s probably a stretch. But if consumer electronics had been as mainstream in the 1980s as they are today, there’s no reason to think RadioShack couldn’t have been the place to be for everyone, beyond just the geeks.

Instead, RadioShack morphed into what was essentially a cell phone outpost pitted against the long-term interest of the carriers. Hence, the situation they’re now in.

No one is asking, but my plan to revive RadioShack would be to harken back to the old days with a twist of the way things currently are. I’d create an “Apple Store for everything.”

Yeah, yeah with Apple now the crown jewel of retail, everyone is trying to do this. But RadioShack has two distinct advantages. 1) This love of gadgetry is in their DNA. 2) They already have the retail presence.

And actually, number 2 has been a huge point of weakness for RadioShack. They’ve tried to close a large amount of current stores, but their investors won’t let them. So it may be time to turn the perceived weakness into a strength.

Yes, Best Buy and others have been trying to do this to some extent as well. But those stores are way too cluttered and intimidating. Radio Shack stores seem to be just the right size. The key would be to curate only the best-of-the-best Android devices, Google devices, Microsoft devices, Sony devices, etc. Not everything, just the best.

Then lay those items out around the store to let people try them out and compare. And have experts around to help. Experts not paid on commission. Experts who aren’t fucking clueless (go into a RadioShack store now, most employees are clueless about current technology). Actual experts in the various gadgets and ecosystems.

Yes, Radio Shack seems to be doing some of this with their new store strategy. But I’ve seen one of those new stores – they don’t go far enough. They’re just trying to be actual Apple Stores (including the emphasis on Beats). They should be more like Bizzaro Apple Stores.

Again, don’t offer everything, just the best things. Partner with The Wirecutter or someone who excels in this type of curation. Be the place people trust to sort through the gadget clutter.

And maybe mix in some new, exciting tech. Things like Oculus, 3D printers, etc. Things that excite the public’s interest and things they want to see in person.

If you can establish yourself in this way, I think the lines out the door on launch days (of select products) may follow.

Remember, when the first Apple Stores launched, they were ridiculed as a failure waiting to happen. Apple did a lot of smart things to get to where they are now, but the focus on quality products is what ultimately made the strategy work. We may not be able to rely on other consumer electronic giants to do the same on their own, and that’s where RadioShack could step in. To curate. The Apple Store for everything else.

(Written on my iPhone)

Lost amid all the talk about how much the Apple Watch will cost is an equally important and equally unanswered question: how much will the Apple Watch bands cost? Drew Breunig on the matter:

While the band mechanism itself was mentioned only briefly last week, I think it’s one of the most important components announced. The connector allows Apple to address the luxury and mass markets, allows them to ship a personal product by isolating the part which will go obsolete, and locks up a lucrative market which will provide margin cushions for the Watch itself, allowing for competitive pricing.

My guess is that these bands could range anywhere from $50 (for the sports bands) to $500 (for the high end ones) or maybe even more. Again, that’s aside from the watch itself.

And yes, the margins will be insane here for Apple. But these bands will also presumably be usable as Apple continues to iterate on the Watch itself. I assume they’ll come out with new bands over time, but it seems like these original ones are being engineered to last.

And it sure seems like Apple has engineered them with the notion that you’ll probably own at least a couple, and will swap them in and out as situations dictate.

Fascinating profile of Michael Larson, the head of Cascade Investment LLC — aka, the secretive fund that invests most of Bill Gates’ wealth. A couple fun tidbits from Anupreeta Das & Craig Karmin’s reporting:

The firm owns at least 100,000 acres of farmland in California, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana and other states—or an area seven times bigger than Manhattan.

And:

Cascade employees are expected to be frugal. Even though Mr. Gates owns nearly half of the Four Seasons Holding Inc. luxury-hotel chain through Cascade, the investment firm’s executives stay at less-expensive hotels, even when traveling on Four Seasons business.

They also own the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco, and a 490-acre ranch in Wyoming once owned by William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody.