i3 - November/December 2017 - 46

Charles Tandy
PUBLISHER,
FOUNDER TWICE
OF TANDY
MAGAZINE
CORP. (1918-1978)
(1947 -0000)

re you crazy?" That
was the obvious
question Charles
Tandy faced from his board
on November 15, 1963. Tandy
proposed spending $300,000
to buy a controlling share of a
failing nine-store Boston-area
consumer electronics retailer
called RadioShack. But Tandy
wasn't crazy. Tandy proceeded to
grow RadioShack from nine debtridden stores to more than 7,000
outlets worldwide, generating
annual sales of more than $1.2
billion, making it the largest
and most successful consumer
electronics retailer of all time.
Charles David Tandy was
born May 15, 1918, in Fort Worth,
to David (Dave) and Carmen
Tandy. His father was co-founder
and partner in Hinkley-Tandy
Leather, a shoe findings
business that grew into a large,
nationally known specialty
leather supplier. In spite of his
father's business success, at
age 10 Tandy was determined to
display his own business acumen.
Throughout the Depression,
Tandy supplemented a meager
allowance via several adolescent
entrepreneurial efforts.
After graduating from Texas
Christian University in 1940,
Tandy joined the Navy, rising
to ensign. After the war, Tandy
officially joined his father's

"A

46

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017

Charles Tandy grew
RadioShack from nine stores to
more than 7,000 outlets
worldwide, generating annual sales
of more than $1.2 billion.

business, which soon began
a rapid expansion. In May of
1950, the father and son bought
out their partner, and the
company became the Tandy
Leather Company. Charles
opened two retail leather
locations as part of a pilot chain
program that succeeded largely
because of a complementary
direct mail catalog program.
Charles took complete charge
of the company in 1954. By 1960,
Tandy was operating 119 craft
stores, and in November, the
company went public.
In 1962, Tandy was looking to
broaden his portfolio by entering
what he saw as a dynamic,
emerging industry - consumer

electronics. Tandy viewed
RadioShack as a victim of bad
management and a promising
turnaround opportunity. But it
wouldn't be easy: the retailer
reported losses of $4.5 million
and owed $57 million with a
negative net worth of $2.5 million.
Tandy closed RadioShack's
larger stores and opened
smaller 2,500-square-foot
locations that he leased so he
could quickly close locations
that underperformed. He
decimated the number of stock
keeping units each store sold,
concentrating on the 20 percent
of items that represented 80
percent of sales. He used the
company's mail order list to

determine the most fertile retail
locations. He sourced all the
chain's products from Japan
and championed private label,
resulting in the Realistic, Archer,
Micronta and Optimus brands.
He then fired all the chiefs and
promoted the Indians, as Tandy
put it, by elevating Bernie Appel
(CTA Hall of Fame, 2002) to be
the chain's chief buyer.
By the end of 1964,
RadioShack had expanded to
43 locations in 13 states. By the
end of 1965, there were 74 stores
in 20 states and 130 stores a
year later. Tandy continued to
add more than 100 stores a year.
In June, 1967, Tandy hired John
Roach (CTA Hall of Fame, 2006),
who would eventually rise to
RadioShack president and
Tandy chairman. After suffering
a heart attack in October 1968,
Tandy moved RadioShack's
headquarters from Boston to
Tandy's home base in Fort Worth.
Tandy's purchase of Allied Radio
expanded RadioShack's retail
base to 1,000 locations by
spring 1971.
In 1973, Tandy began opening
hundreds of locations around
the world. By the time Tandy died
at age 60 on November 4, 1978,
he had transformed RadioShack
into the most dominant and
influential consumer electronics
retailer of all time.

I T I S I N N O VAT I O N



i3 - November/December 2017

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