First, just to get it out of the way - SparkFun will be closed on Monday, July 5th in observation of Independence Day (and no, we aren't closing because we'll all be watching the decidedly awesome while also terrible Will Smith movie by the same name...although...not a bad idea).
People have been asking us for years to be able to buy some of our products locally. Since we don't live in your neighborhood (most likely), you usually have to order online or from one of our international distributors (currently at about 90). But there is really no place to go and physically 'shop' for the toys that feed our projects.
Let me be clear - we don't plan on purchasing the Radio Shack chain. As much as that might be fun, we don't actually have a plan. Instead, we're packaging up a few of the most beginner friendly items, Arduino based for now, in fancy clamshells.
These clamshell packages are easy to open, recyclable, and show off our product as much as possible. Our MarComm (marketing and communication) has been working hard along side Casey our mechanical engineer to get the packaging as professional as possible.
These packages are created for our current distributors that may need them, and for future retail establishments that need a UPC and price tag. We're sort of going with the 'build it and they will come' approach. So if you know someone that should carry our products, please let us know: email@example.com.
Arduino packaged up and ready for the big time.
While the plastic clamshells are recyclable, we want to limit the amount of extra plastic generated in this world. To limit the excess of plastic as much as possible, you'll find that many of these packaged items are a few dollars more than their equivalent 'bare' items.
Ardumoto with all the fixin's
I believe the general user won't need/want the extra packaging, but I do think that the packaging adds a level of 'finish' that may be appreciated when a gift is given. So instead of making these 'retail' packaged items available to only a select few, we've made them available to anyone, just like any other product. This way folks who want to give a gift to someone, or for any other reason we're not thinking of, can get these products in the fancy packaging.
Something we always have to remind ourselves is to think like a customer. If I know nothing about soldering or programming, and I buy the Joystick shield kit and take it home, how do I put it together? How do I use it? So with these packaged products, you'll find they have easy to type short-links (http://sparkfun.com/joystickshield) that take you to a landing page. The landing page acts as an easy to start entry way to the product. There is a quickstart guide and an assembly guide for each product that help noobs get going quickly.
It's been a ton of work to get this far, but it's also been amazing to see people react to the packaging. It's like we're a company that's growing up a bit and getting their first real suit. We may look fancy on the outside, but it's still us underneath.
I've always wanted to get to this point! The point at which I can hand a friend, or my nieces or nephew a gift and say 'Here you go. Now you can begin to learn to build stuff like I do.'
We're far from done. We've got a long list of other items to package. Let us know what you think so far. Also, what other products should we be packing? The top of my list is the Simon PTH Kit and possibly some LEDs.