on a Shoestring
story of RadioShack begins in 1919 in Fort Worth, Texas, with a
chance meeting of two friends, Norton Hinckley and Dave L. Tandy
(1889-1966). During their visit, these ambitious young fellows decided
to pool their resources and go into business together. Their venture,
which the two gentlemen named the Hinckley-Tandy Leather Company,
sold leather shoe parts (soles, heels and shoelaces) to shoe repair
shops in the Fort Worth area.
Although the partners had no way of knowing it at the time, their
humble beginning would evolve into RadioShack Corporation
a multifaceted, multibillion dollar company, and one of the nation's
largest retailers of consumer electronics.
The First RadioShack
years later and half a continent away, two brothers, Theodore and
Milton Deutschmann, opened a one-store retail and mail-order operation
in the heart of downtown Boston. They chose the name, "RadioShack,"
which was a term for the small, wooden structure that housed a ship's
radio equipment. The Deutschmanns thought the name was appropriate
for a store that would supply the needs of radio officers aboard
ships, as well as "ham" radio operators.
Beginning in 1921, RadioShack would grow to a handful of stores
clustered in the Northeast, and become a leading electronics mail-order
distributor to hobbyists. This is how it would remain until the
company and a young Texan named Charles Tandy crossed paths four
Charles Tandy Joins
the Family Business
Meanwhile, the Hinckley-Tandy Leather Company grew modestly through
the years. Although the company survived the Great Depression, it
was nearly crippled when World War II began in 1941. Shoes were
rationed two pairs per adult per year and leather
for civilian use virtually disappeared.
Mr. Tandy's oldest son, Charles D. Tandy (1918-1978), while serving
in the Navy during the war, observed how leathercraft was used as
a therapeutic tool for patients in military hospitals and by servicemen
in recreation and rehabilitation centers. He told his father that
leathercraft was the way to steer the company during the war years
and to prepare for what he believed would be a healthy, new,
post-war hobby market.
Tandy Leather Company
Charles Tandy returned to Fort Worth in 1947 a driven and demanding
man with big dreams. The Hinckley-Tandy Leather Company was a five-store
and mail-order catalog operation with about $750,000 in annual sales.
Pretty good for those times but not good enough for Charles.
Charles firmly believed in the high gross-profit margins of the
leathercraft business and the growth possibilities of the leisure-time
hobby market. His views clashed with those of the family's partner,
Norton Hinckley. The disagreement ended in a split in 1950 when
Charles and his father formed Tandy Leather Company, while Hinckley
kept the shoe business.
Listed on the New York Stock Exchange
By 1954, Charles' enthusiasm for providing the leather parts and
tools to make wallets and other items had grown the Tandy Leather
Company to 67 stores in 36 states and Hawaii, with sales of $8 million.
Although successful, the company had reached a point where coping
with estate and management problems inherent in a privately held
family business dictated selling the enterprise to gain a listing
on a major stock exchange to attract investors and finance expansion.
Tandy Leather Company was sold to American Hide and Leather of Boston,
a respected New England firm, which changed its name to General
American Industries after the merger. Following a string of unsuccessful
acquisitions, the firm soon found itself in financial trouble. Profits
from the Tandy organization were used to cover losses of the parent
company, instead of going toward expansion of the leathercraft business
as Charles had originally planned.
Tandy began a struggle for control of the company. He prevailed
four years later and was elected Chairman of the Board in November
1959. He moved the corporation's headquarters to Fort Worth the
following year, and the name of the company was changed to Tandy
Corporation. On Nov. 14, 1960, the company's stock began trading
on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "TAN."
(When the name of the company was changed from Tandy Corporation
to RadioShack Corporation in May 2000, the NYSE symbol became "RSH.")
Corporation Acquires RadioShack
RadioShack continued to do quite well. It issued its first catalog
in the early 1940s. In 1947, the company entered the growing high-fidelity
market and opened the nation's first audio showroom that provided
comparisons of speakers, amplifiers, turntables and phonograph cartridges.
In 1954, RadioShack began selling its own private-label product
line with the Realistic® brand name.
By the early 1960s, RadioShack had expanded to nine retail stores
(plus a mail-order business) and was a leading distributor of electronic
parts and products to do-it-yourselfers around the world. However,
the company soon fell on hard times due to poor operating practices,
coupled with a disastrous credit offering to its customers.
Tandy, who had become intrigued with consumer electronics, saw the
small RadioShack chain as an excellent opportunity for rapid growth.
He bought the essentially bankrupt company in 1963 for the equivalent
of $300,000 cash, and embarked on a plan that turned it into one
of the great success stories of American retailing. Since then,
RadioShack has grown to more than 7,300 stores, and its net sales
and operating revenues have ballooned to $4.8 billion.
In 1975, Tandy Corporation became exclusively an electronics company
after it spun off all other operations into Tandycrafts and Tandy
Brands. In 1986, the company spun off its foreign retail operations
into InterTAN, Inc.
Products That Took
America by Storm
decade of the '70s was pivotal for RadioShack. It was a time of
incredible growth not only in the number of stores that were
opened, but in the quantity, quality and sophistication of the products
available at the company's stores and dealers.
Following on the heels of the phenomenal popularity of citizen-band
(CB) radios, the company had another instant hit. In 1977, RadioShack
introduced the first mass-produced personal computer: the TRS-80®
microcomputer. In contrast to build-it-yourself units available
at the time, the TRS-80 was fully wired and tested. Although a primitive
machine by today's standards, it was a technological and price breakthrough,
and overwhelming customer demand caused a production backlog that
lasted for months. Over 200,000 TRS-80 Model I computers were sold
from 1977 to 1981.
The '80s continued to make RadioShack the "biggest name in
little computers," as the company's advertising proclaimed.
In addition, RadioShack offered the first affordably priced stereo
receiver with digital technology, the first mobile/portable cellular
telephone that consumers could install themselves and the first
high-performance satellite TV system that could be installed by
The '90s brought a rejuvenation of RadioShack's core business. The
company saw an explosion in personal communications. The company
invented the Family Radio Service (FRS), which uses license-free
2-way personal radios. Today, RadioShack sells more wireless phones
than any other retailer.
RadioShack in the
RadioShack has formed strategic alliances with some of the best
known and most trusted brands in the consumer electronics and computer
industries including Compaq, Microsoft, RCA, Sprint and Verizon
Wireless to create our unique Store-Within-A-Store concept.
no other retailer in our industry, and quite possibly in any industry,
RadioShack has positioned itself for consistent and sustained growth.
In just over five years, RadioShack has essentially "reinvented"
itself into an innovative company that is, with each passing year,
moving further from a traditional retailer to a leading-edge growth
To accomplish our goal, we have created three distinct Strategic
Business Units (SBUs) that are each responsible for an anchor
product and service category. Our three SBUs are: Connecting
People, which is our telecommunications business, and includes
wireless devices and accessories, radio communications devices,
and phones; Connecting Places, which is our home connectivity
business, and includes computers, high-speed Internet and audio/video;
and Connecting Things, which is our parts, batteries
and accessories business, and also includes personal electronics
Today, RadioShack Corporation continues to lead the way as one of
the nation's largest retailers of consumer electronics.
Chairmen of the Board
Charles D. Tandy, 1961-1978
Phil R. North, 1978-1982
John V. Roach, 1982-1999
Leonard H. Roberts, 1999-present
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