The Sharper Image

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Sharper Image
IndustryConsumer Electronics and Lifestyle Products
Founded1977; 43 years ago (1977)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
FoundersRichard Thalheimer
HeadquartersUnited States
Parent– ThreeSixty Group;
Camelot Venture Group
(US catalog/ecomm rights)
Websitewww.sharperimage.com

Sharper Image is an American brand that offers consumers home electronics, air purifiers, gifts and other high-tech lifestyle products through its website, catalog, and third-party retailers. The brand is owned by ThreeSixty Group[1], with the U.S. catalog and website owned and operated by Michigan-based Camelot Venture Group.[2]

The brand has been in operation since its relaunch in 2010. The earlier consumer products retailer by that name was founded by Richard Thalheimer and was in business from 1977 until its closing in 2008. The company sold merchandise through dozens of retail stores throughout the United States, a monthly catalog, and its website, along with business-to-business sales teams that marketed products for corporate incentive programs and wholesale to retailers.

History[edit]

The Sharper Image was the brainchild of Richard Thalheimer. The company started in 1977 as a catalog business to sell jogging watches.[3] Later, through what had become an iconic catalog,[4] The Sharper Image expanded its product assortment to include high end, futuristic gadgets, electronics, massage chairs, and air purifiers. Popular products such as the Ionic Breeze and exclusive models of Human Touch massage chairs[5] helped propel The Sharper Image to become an iconic American brand with 187 retail stores in 38 states.[6]

Corporate change[edit]

In 2006 there was a change in the board of directors of the company, including the removal of Thalheimer as CEO.[7] Thalheimer was replaced by Chairman Jerry W. Levin.[8] Not long after, on April 9, 2007, Steven A. Lightman became the president and CEO.[9]

On April 10, 2008, Levin resigned as a member and Chairman of the Board of the company to pursue participating with other investors to acquire some or all of the company’s businesses or assets. But, as was pointed out, "Levin hasn't made a lot of money for the investors of Sharper Image he's teamed up with so far, including hedge fund Ramius Capital, which helped bring him in as a director, and Clinton Group, which announced a large stake in December."[10] Under Levin, the company's stock price had fallen from about $40 three years ago to about 23 cents (a "paltry" $3.6 million market capitalization) at the time of his departure, on the over-the-counter pink sheets.[11] His group's bid did not succeed.[12]

Bankruptcy[edit]

The Sharper Image stock price reached a record low of 29 cents a share on February 20, 2008. On February 25, 2008, The Sharper Image announced it had received notification that it would be delisted from the NASDAQ exchange. The company filed for bankruptcy protection with the U.S. bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Delaware. Sharper Image said it had $251.5 million of assets and $199 million of debts as of January 31, 2008, according to the filing.[13] Cash on hand totaled about $700,000.[14] All of its retail stores were closed by the end of 2008.[15]

Post-bankruptcy[edit]

On May 29, 2008, a joint venture led by units of private investment firms Hilco Consumer Capital, Infinity Lifestyle Brands, Gordon Brothers Group and Bluestar Alliance won a bankruptcy auction to acquire the assets of The Sharper Image, paying $49 million plus some contingent recovery for the company's assets.[16] The Sharper Image name was licensed and used to sell products through major third-party retailers or the branded website. New products were created through partnerships with other businesses.[15][17][18]

In 2011, Iconix Brand Group bought the Sharper Image brand[19] and took control of all licensing relationships, while Camelot Venture Group continued to operate the catalog and website. In June 2014, Camelot Venture Group acquired the rights to the US direct-to-consumer division of the brand (catalog and e-commerce) from Iconix Brand Group.

Relaunch[edit]

In December 2016, Irvine California-based ThreeSixty Group, owners of brands such as FAO Schwarz and Vornado Air, purchased all remaining rights (including global manufacturing, distribution, and licensing rights) from Iconix Brand Group for US$100 million.[20] In 2019, ThreeSixty Group relaunched Sharper Image with new logos, styling, slogans (including Tomorrow’s Tomorrow℠), and a refreshed product assortment.

Advertising and business[edit]

The Sharper Image's advertising budget was primarily directed to its monthly catalog for about the first 20 years of its existence.[21] Once products like the Ionic Breeze were introduced, the company began using infomercials for advertising. Most other products in the home air purifier market (including those made by Oreck) already used this medium, so The Sharper Image followed.[citation needed] This move boosted sales, but led to confusion between prices advertised on television and those marked in the retail stores.[citation needed] The company was known to receive special supplier contracts. For instance, its HW551 and HW552 product code massage chairs were specific to The Sharper Image, and Human Touch Interactive didn't sell those specific chairs to any other retailer.

Today, The Sharper Image features products and promotions through multiple digital and traditional marketing mediums, including TV commercials, email, search engine marketing, display ads, its blog, and its social media outlets - Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest. In addition, it maintains the tradition of high-profile catalog covers, recently featuring stars such as Josh Duhamel, Heidi Klum, Betty White and Megan Fox.[22][23]

The Sharper Image's website showcases unique products,[24] carrying both The Sharper Image name and other brand names such as Bose and Human Touch. While various products are featured in gift guides across the internet,[25][26] The Sharper Image website also features its own Gift Guides for occasions such as Mother's Day, Father's Day, and the major holiday season.[27][28]

Products from the website have been featured in tech blogs,[29][30] and popular TV segments such as The Today Show.[31]

Sharper Image licensed products can be found in major retail stores such as Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Nordstrom, and Macy's.

Consumer Reports lawsuit[edit]

In 2002, Consumer Reports tested many fan-driven air purifiers alongside the Sharper Image's Ionic Breeze Quadra. The Sharper Image was not happy with the results, and sued Consumer Reports in order to get what they thought would be a more fair testing of the product.[32] However, the suit was dismissed, primarily due to the court finding that the company "has not shown that the test protocol used by Consumers Union was scientifically, or otherwise, invalid," and had not "demonstrated a reasonable probability that any of the challenged statements were false." Furthermore, Sharper Image could not "come forward with any evidence from which a finding of malice could be made."[33]

Two years later, Consumer Reports stated that the Quadra could be dangerous to consumers' health, because of the trace levels of ozone produced by the unit.[34] As a result, sales plummeted, and Sharper Image stores took back all units for a cash refund. The Sharper Image's response was to work with the Engelhard Corporation and create an ozone catalyst that reduced the amount of excess ozone in the purified air before it circulated throughout the room.[35]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Manufacturer Buys Sharper Image". ocbj.com. 2017-01-03. Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  2. ^ "The Sharper Image - Official Site: Unique, Innovative, and Fun Gifts for your home or office". www.sharperimage.com. Retrieved 2019-04-23.
  3. ^ Liedtke, Michael. "Sharper Image founder Thalheimer is removed as CEO". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2008-12-26. Retrieved 2007-08-09.
  4. ^ "With Sharper Image's Demise, A Way Of Life Gone". NPR.org. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  5. ^ http://www.humantouch.com/
  6. ^ "Sharper Image Corp.: Private Company Information - Bloomberg". www.bloomberg.com. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  7. ^ Kim, Ryan (2006-09-27). "Sharper Image axes chief executive". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-08-09.
  8. ^ "Jerry W. Levin". Archived from the original on 2007-11-15. Retrieved 2007-11-07.
  9. ^ "Sharper Image Appoints Steven A. Lightman President and Chief Executive Officer". Business Wire. 2007-03-26. Retrieved 2007-08-09.
  10. ^ WHITEHOUSE, KAJA (April 11, 2008). "SHARPER IMAGE EYED BY EX-CHAIR". The New York Post. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
  11. ^ AP (10 April 2008). "Sharper Image chairman resigns, wants to buy bankrupt retailer". The Mercury News. Archived from the original on 21 May 2020.
  12. ^ http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/080410/20080410005358.html[dead link]
  13. ^ McCarty, Dawn; Cotten Timberlake (2008-02-20). "Sharper Image, Lillian Vernon File for Bankruptcy as Sales Slow". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2008-02-20.
  14. ^ "Sharper Image files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy". Reuters. 2008-02-20. Retrieved 2008-02-20.
  15. ^ a b Taub, Eric (2009-01-18). "The Sharper Image Brand Outlives the Stores". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  16. ^ Chasan, Emily (2008-05-29). "Investment firms win Sharper Image in bankruptcy". Reuters. Retrieved 2008-07-21.
  17. ^ Fredrix, Emily (2009-07-01). "Meltdown 101: Shuttered stores' sites still sell". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-11-10.
  18. ^ Kavilanz, Parija B. (2009-04-26). "Brands of defunct retailers making a comeback — Apr. 26, 2009". Money.cnn.com. Retrieved 2009-10-20.
  19. ^ "Iconix acquires The Sharper Image brand".
  20. ^ "The Sharper Image". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 2017-03-09.
  21. ^ "Morningstar Document Library". Doc.morningstar.com. Retrieved 2011-06-30.
  22. ^ "Sharper Image Debuts its Holiday Campaign Starring Actor, Josh Duhamel - Iconix". Iconix. 2015-11-04. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  23. ^ "News-Sharper Image, Camelot Venture Group". www.camelotvg.com. Archived from the original on 2015-01-11. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  24. ^ "Sharper Image 'Gift Right' For the Holidays - Josh Duhamel Showcases "Boys Like Toys"". onceuponamaritime.com. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  25. ^ "The Sharper Image Holiday Gift Guide - Mommy Hates Cooking". Mommy Hates Cooking. 2016-11-23. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  26. ^ "The 2015 Newsweek Gift Guide for Everyone Else". Newsweek. 2015-12-16. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  27. ^ "Gift Guide @ Sharper Image". www.sharperimage.com. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  28. ^ "Sharper Image Goes Wireless For Father's Day Gifts". PRNewswire. May 27, 2014. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  29. ^ "2014 Father's day tech and gadgets gift guide | ZDNet". ZDNet. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  30. ^ Stott, Rob. "14 Items in the Sharper Image Catalog that Prove They're Better at Tech Trends than You - Dealerscope". Dealerscope. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  31. ^ "News-Sharper Image, Camelot Venture Group". www.camelotvg.com. Archived from the original on 2017-07-18. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  32. ^ "Sharper Image pays $525,000 to end lawsuit against CU". Archived from the original on August 6, 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-09.
  33. ^ Barrett, Stephen. "Court Dismisses Sharper Image Lawsuit against Consumers Union". Retrieved 2008-03-05.
  34. ^ "Consumer Reports calls air purifier 'unhealthy'". Retrieved 2007-08-09.
  35. ^ "Sharper Image Ionic Breeze Air Purifiers Are the First to Feature OzoneGuard". Business Wire. 2005-07-25. Archived from the original on February 17, 2006. Retrieved 2007-08-09.

External links[edit]