Lafayette ran into major financial difficulty when the FCC authorized a new Citizens Band (“CB”) spectrum with 40 channels. Lafayette’s buyers had firm commitments to accept delivery of thousands of the older design units, and were not able to liquidate the inventory without taking a serious loss. Eventually, all of the old CB radios were sold for under $40.
With less than 100 stores, far fewer than the aggressively expanding Radio Shack’s thousands of local outlets, Lafayette Radio remained more of a dedicated enthusiasts’ store than a mass marketer.
The company was also hurt by the advent of electronics retailers relying on aggressive marketing techniques and competitive pricing in the late 1970s. Many experienced managers departed. Formerly a national chain, the remaining Lafayette stores in the state of New York closed by the end of 1981.
Most of Lafayette’s models were not the best performers nor were they the worst performers. Products ranged from stereos to two-way radios for Hams and CBers, and shortwave listeners. Many were dedicated types with special functions, such as VHF receivers for police and fire channels built into a CB radio. A complete model line included many models and brand names to choose from for just about any purpose, as opposed to just a few.
The product line also covered other manufacturers’ products through seasonal catalogs. The company’s best selling products were often shortwave receivers, parts, and portable radios. In the 1960s, most Lafayette brand radios were rebranded Trio-Kenwood sets, which were of moderate performance and build quality.
A significant share of 60’s and 70’s vintage Lafayette hi-fi gear was manufactured by a Japanese subcontractor named “Planet Research”. “Criterion” brand speakers were built by several offshore and some domestic assemblers.
Lafayette also sold a variety of electronic musical equipment made by different manufacturers. There were solid-body and hollow-body electric guitars, probably made by Teisco or Harmony.
Microphones, amplifiers, and various electronic effects such as reverbs were available. One of the most famous effects that Lafayette sold was the Uni-Vibe, used by many musicians, most notably Jimi Hendrix. Robin Trower, Stevie Ray Vaughan and others later used the effect to emulate Hendrix’s sounds and achieve new ones of their own.