Vex?

I saw a $299 Vex kit at my local Radio Shack marked down to $119 and am wondering whatever happened to this company? Anybody?
Wayne
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The VEX line was developed for Radio Shack (as far as I can tell). It's not some other company that Radio Shack sells the product for, it was a Radio Shack product. Radio Shack recently decided to stop selling it (after only one year) and has been selling all its inventory at half price. I guess it just didn't sell well. If you found it for $119, that's even lower than half price. Maybe they are dropping the prices even further now - they don't seem to have much inventory left.
The line has been sold by Radio Shack to Innovation First http://www.innovationfirst.com/ (they seemed to have been involved in its creation but I don't know the actual business relationships or history).
See the www.vexlabs.com web site. The www.vexroboitcs.com name now redirects you to the vexlabs site. I recently bought a ton of the vex stuff at half price from Radio Shack. It's fun to work with and a good deal at that price.
So even though Radio Shack will no longer be selling it, you can still buy parts from Innovation First at the full price.
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Curt Welch wrote:

Don't think this is quite right. For many, many years Radio Shack has not done their own product development, except in a very limited fashion. Radio Shack will often strike up an exclusive arrangement of product brought to them by an outside company. Except for the usual product buyer input, the product is not developed or manufactured by Radio Shack, and usually the only integeration with the Radio Shack brand is the manuals and packaging. In its heyday, RS had some 8,000 stores, so if each store has just two of your product, you've already sold 16,000 units. Not bad, so this is why companies used to do more exclusive arrangements with RS. I doubt this trend will continue.
Typically the exclusivity arrangement is limited to a particular number of years. But since Vex was never a huge seller for the chain, I imagine the change in distribution was welcomed by both sides. RS gets to concentrate on cell phones, and Vex is free to explore other distribution models.
You'll often find companies in and around the Dallas/Fort Worth area doing business with RS, because RS has traditionally shunned the Big City Folk. So, though InnovationFirst/Vex is located close to RS headquarters, I don't think they've ever been connected except as a vendor/client. This was certainly the case with the book packager I worked with during the 1980s when I wrote several books that were exclusive to Radio Shack. They were located in a Dallas suburb, but the company was independent of RS, and none of the principals ever worked for the outfit.
-- Gordon
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Gordon McComb wrote:

I only wish retail was as simple as that. When you go into a big retailer like Radio Shack, you sign a contract that is usually very draconian. Typically they will require one or even two units free of charge, to use as floor demos. Typically they will charge you "co-op advertising", ie. you pay for the privilege of being in their catalog. Typically they try to work in a condition where they can return all unsold stock within some period - three or six months being common.
Unless you're very, very big and have frisky lawyers, you can't avoid most of this pain. That's why the brands you see in stores like Circuit City are either big, big names like Sony, or tiny noname Chinese OEMs - in the latter case, Circuit City went to the OEM for some cheap junk, not the other way round.
My former employer sold half a million dollars worth of [expensive] electronic devices to a major national chain, and wound up OWING the chain, as far as I can recall, nearly two million dollars. Some of the floor units were returned, but they weren't boxed or anything - the store guys just threw all the units, power supplies, cables etc. loose into a huge box and shipped them back to us like a crate of oranges.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Onbviously this is not the case with Vex as Radio Shack is liquidating the stock. You have to figure 50% is more or less Radio Shack's cost, so if they could return it, they would have.

And this has to do with Radio Shack and the Vex products in what way?
-- Gordon
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Yeah, I know nothing of what happened, but I didn't mean to imply Radio Shack did the engineering and manufacturing. I suspect however that the Innovation First people and Radio Shack got together, and developed the line for the sole purpose of having Radio Shack sell it. Who approached who first I couldn't guess.
But the product steals a lot from the other Innovation First robotics systems used for the competitions. Except it's smaller, cheaper, and packaged in a way that is clear to me Innovation First wouldn't have done (just by looking at their web sites it's clear they are an engineering group and not a marketing group).
So my guess is that the marketing folks at Radio Shack got together with Innovation first and developed the product so that it could be sold as a retail product though Radio Shack.
There's a press announcement on the Innovation First web site that talks about how they bought the trademark and product line from Radio Shack. So this was not something Innovation First developed on their own and then worked out a distribution deal with Radio Shack. It looks like something Radio Shack created by taking the basic systems that Innovation first had developed, and then spent a lot of money to have it packaged into a system for retail distribution. So I suspect it was Innovation First providing the engineering with Radio Shack finding other groups to do all the slick packaging and develop that stupid "development environment" and do the manufacturing. So I think it was a Radio Shack creation, which, when they decided it wasn't going to make any money for them, Innovation first picked up all the slick packaging and the VEX brand name that I suspect Radio Shack created. Innovation First was probably just a contractor for Radio Shack before that. Or maybe they had some joint profit sharing deal.
That's my best guess as to how it worked out.
It could be that some other unknown third party put together the VEX system for the purpose of selling it to Radio Shack, and then did just that. And then Radio Shack sold it to Innovation First when they decided it was a looser.
It doesn't smell like a standard distribution arrangement. It smells like there was some other "good buddies" connection between someone at Radio Shack and someone at Innovation first that led to the development of the Vex system. Maybe the CEO of Radio Shack was old friends with some of the guys at Innovation First and over dinner one night the idea was born that Radio Shack should productize this robotics technology into a retail product?
It would be interesting to hear how it all actually happened.
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wrote:

--- snip for brevity and to avoid top posting which annoys many people, although it will probably become the standard ---
Just for fun I just did a market research study on the sale of robot kits and discovered that 90% of the actual workable kits are being sold are the Parallax Robotics Kits Boe-Bot --- I did this using the latest and greatest market research tool known to man/woman alive. Got into eBay and selected robot kit for heading and in text, and closed auctions only. The going price for the BASIC kit ranges from $58 to $78 and about fifty have been sold on eBay in the last fifteen days. No other robot kit, except for a few toys, is on the list of some 404 items. I did not see one Vex nor Mindstorm kit at all.
Toy companies are no longer toy companies who design and manufacture a product for mass distribution. Toy companies contract the design to professional engineering outfits or agree to licensing some inventor's product that came to them via an established agent, who then provide the detail drawings and the toy company issue POs to the many subcontractors to make and package the product which they then try to sell. I think Radio Shack tried the same gambit with the Vex... and they simply did not put the sizzle nor steak into their marketing. Any new product is a toss of the die.
I wish vex luck. They seem to have a decent product. But then so does Mindstorm and Parallax for the money. In my humble opinion.
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Gordon McComb writing with nom de plum Forrest Nimms III? Love those books!

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Wayne Lundberg wrote:

Well not quite. But I think I may come in second or so in number of titles sold through Radio Shack -- something like 6 or 7. Over the yuears I imagine Forrest sold some 30-35 books with them.
We never had to provide "floor samples" BTW. They bought every copy, and had a contract to purchase the entire print run after a certain period of time. This is how Radio Shack does (did) business.
-- Gordon
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Thanks Curt.
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So how is the Radio Shack sale for Vex going? Are they done yet?
TMT
Curt Welch wrote:

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They are still selling stuff on the web site at 1/2 price but there's not much left. No more starter sets are available. Just servos, limit switches, bumper switches, gear sets, and safety glasses. The stores still have inventory I think so if you can find it in a store it's still 1/2 price I think. The web site can check the inventory of your local stores and it seems to work fairly well because I used it to find a few parts in my area and every store they said had a part did actually have it when I got there.
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snipped-for-privacy@kcwc.com http://NewsReader.Com /
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