Western civilization is currently abuzz with the news that Radio Shack — the Ur retail electronics franchise — has changed its name to “The Shack,” presumably in the hopes of no longer being the butt of tech observers’ (and consumers’) jokes.
I can just imagine some junior Don Draper making the pitch to Radio Shack’s corporate brass: “People don’t want to be told about their future — the future is uncertain, and sullied by unemployment, high crime rates and failing schools. No, it’s about returning to a simpler time. An unvarnished place that a man can call his own, hi-definition video and Apple computers be damned. Gentleman, you don’t need technology. You never did. You’re more than just some outlet for fickle electronics manufacturers — you’re a place of refuge from the whipping winds of progress. Gentlemen, you’re not ‘Radio Shack.’ You’re ‘The Shack.'”
Or maybe they simply no longer wanted to be associated with radio. Given the ongoing atrocity that is Clear Channel, who can blame ’em?
But is “The Shack” any better? I mean, if you’re gonna bother rebranding, why not go all the way? And what’s with all these chain stores and their fixations with primitive shelter? Let’s see… you’ve got Dress Barn, Pizza Hut, Filene’s Basement (well, not any more), Men’s Wearhouse, The Attic. . . I was thinking of opening a shop called “The Tux Dungeon,” until someone told me it might attract a somewhat different-than-expected clientele.
Let’s face it: if you’re goal is to sell electronics, you can’t name yourself after a structure less sophisticated than an outhouse. (Though come to think of it, “The Outhouse” might be a good name for a taco joint.) “The Shack” isn’t a place to go for cutting-edge gadgetry — it’s where “Unibomber” Ted Kaczynski used to live. And we all remember how much he liked technology.
Possibly the only thing Radio Shack has ever had going for it is that at some point or another everyone is gonna need a two-pronged male thingamajig for their two-pronged female whatzadoo. With its decidedly unflashy, offbrand product line and overleveraged outlets, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find a cheap fix for your basic consumer electronics needs (and you’ll also be able to pick up some Chinese food next door). I mean, you probably wouldn’t want to buy a computer there (although I loved me that TRS-80!), but for cheapie cables and connectors, you really can’t go wrong. Somehow I doubt changing their name to “The Shack” will alter this dynamic. Then again, I’m no Don Draper (more like a Roger Sterling).