The Sharper Image

The Sharper Image

Infobox Company |
company_name = The Sharper Image
company_type = Public
foundation = San Francisco, CA 1977
location = San Francisco, California
key_people = Robert Conway, President and CEO;
industry = Retail
revenue = decrease US$525.25 million (2007)
operating_income = decrease -US$98.52 million (2007)
net_income = decrease -US$59.89 million (2007)
num_employees = 2,500
homepage = []

The "Sharper Image Corporation" (Pinksheets|SHRPQ), founded by Richard Thalheimer, was an American retailer that specialized in high-end electronics and gifts. The Sharper Image had been in business since 1977 until its demise in 2008, and at one point employed 2,500 people nationwide. The remnant of the company still has its headquarters in San Francisco, CA.

The company sold through its once popular retail stores throughout the United States, a monthly catalog, and its website. The company also had its business-to-business sales teams for marketing its products for corporate incentive programs and wholesale to retailers.

On February 19, 2008, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, blaming low sales aggravated by a decline in consumer spending and negative publicity surrounding its Ionic Breeze air purifiers. [cite web|url=|accessdate=2008-02-20|title=Sharper Image files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection] Sharper Image indicated that stores in economically impacted areas would be closed immediately. As of June 1, 2008, 96 of the company's 186 stores nationwide had completed the liquidation process and were closed. The remaining stores and company assets were acquired by Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Group. Liquidation sales in the remaining Sharper Image stores have completed and all stores have closed. The company's web site only provides an email address for further information and the message, "Sorry to keep you in the dark. But, there's something big coming. Soon. Stay tuned." [cite web|url=|title=Sharper Image home page|accessdate=2008-06-15] The message first appeared on the site on or just before June 15, 2008.


The Sharper Image Corporation is the brainchild of Richard Thalheimer. The company started as a catalog business to sell jogging watches. [cite web|url=|title=Sharper Image founder Thalheimer is removed as CEO|last=Liedtke|first=Michael|accessdate=2007-08-09] He started his advertising in running magazines, and within 2 years he had made his first million. This inspired him to start The Sharper Image.Fact|date=August 2007

The year 2006 saw a shakeup in the board of directors of the company, including the removal of Richard Thalheimer as CEO. [cite web|url=|title=Sharper Image axes chief executive|last=Kim|first=Ryan|accessdate=2007-08-09]

Thalheimer was replaced by Chairman Jerry W. Levin, under whom Sunbeam Products/American Household had filed for bankruptcy in 2001. [cite web|url=|title=Jerry W. Levin|accessdate=2007-11-07]

On April 9, 2007, Steven A. Lightman became the President and CEO. [cite web|url=|title=Sharper Image Appoints Steven A. Lightman President and Chief Executive Officer|accessdate=2007-08-09] In May 2007, the company announced the hiring of Rebecca Roedell as Chief Financial Officer. [cite web|url=|title=Sharper Image Hires Rebecca Roedell As CFO; Roedell To Replace Interim CFO Daniel Nelson - Update|accessdate=2007-08-09]

Levin is also Chairman & CEO of JW Levin Partners LLC, a management and investment firm, since February 2005, and Vice Chairman of Clinton Group, a private diversified asset management company, since December 2007. [cite web|url=|title=Biography of Jerry W. Levin|accessdate=2008-09-01] On February 8, 2008, 11 days before he announced the Sharper Image bankruptcy filing, JWL Partners Acquisition Corp., a SPAC, or special purpose acquisition company, submitted an IPO filing. The filing showed US$200 million proceeds targeted. The underwriting group is listed as Credit Suisse and Ladenburg Thalmann & Co. They have applied to list under the ticker “JWL.U” on the American Stock Exchange. The filing states that the blank check corporation intends to acquire or acquire control of one or more businesses. [cite web|url=|title=SPAC IPO FILING: JWL Partners (JWL, SHRP)|date=February 11, 2008|accessdate=2008-09-01] [cite web|url=|title=Initial Public Offerings (IPO): Business description of JWL PARTNERS ACQUISITION CORP.|accessdate=2008-09-01]

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. [ Dead link|date=August 2008] But, as has been 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." [cite web|url=|title=SHARPER IMAGE EYED BY EX-CHAIR|first=KAJA|last=WHITEHOUSE|date=April 11, 2008|accessdate=2008-09-01|publisher=The New York Post] 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. []

In May 2007, Thalheimer created his own e-commerce site, which has no affiliation with The Sharper Image, and sells items that were typical of the Sharper Image when its focus was offbeat consumer electronics.


On February 19, 2008, The Sharper Image stock reached an all-time low of 41 cents a share, followed by 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 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. [cite news | url = | title = Sharper Image, Lillian Vernon File for Bankruptcy as Sales Slow | publisher = Bloomberg | first = Dawn | last = McCarty | coauthors = Cotten Timberlake | date = 2008-02-20 | accessdate = 2008-02-20] Cash on hand totaled about $700,000. [cite news | url = | title = Sharper Image files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy | publisher = Reuters | date = 2008-02-20 | accessdate = 2008-02-20]

On May 29, 2008, a joint venture led by units of private investment firms Hilco Consumer Capital Corp and Gordon Brothers Group won a bankruptcy auction to acquire the assets of The Sharper Image, paying $49 million plus some contingent recovery for the company's assets. [cite news | url = | title = Investment firms win Sharper Image in bankruptcy | publisher = Reuters | date = 2008-05-29 | accessdate = 2008-07-21]

Retail stores

The company had 184 locations nationwide, which represented close to 60% of the total company revenue.Fact|date=August 2007 In the last few years more and more retail revenue share had been taken over by internet shoppers and Sharper Image's Ebay operation.Fact|date=August 2007 After filing Chapter 11, The Sharper Image liquidated 96 of its stores, leaving only 88 stores still functioning under the company's ownership as of May 28th, 2008. As of August 23, 2008, all retail stores had been closed, and the company vacated its former corporate headquarters.Fact|date=August 2008 Only five employees remain with the company.Fact|date=August 2008

Advertising and business

The Sharper Image's advertising budget was spent on the catalog for about the first 20 years of its existence.Fact|date=August 2007 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.Fact|date=August 2007 This move boosted sales, but led to confusion between prices advertised on television and those marked in the retail stores.Fact|date=August 2007

The company is 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 do not sell those specific chairs to any other retailer. Ever since the Robosapien was released on the market a few years ago, The Sharper Image had the exclusive rights to sell the "Signature Series", Robosapiens in chrome or blue-chrome, as opposed to the standard white models that are sold in other stores.

Consumer Reports lawsuit

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.cite web|url=|title=Sharper Image pays $525,000 to end lawsuit against CU|accessdate=2007-08-09] 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." [cite web|url=|title=Court Dismisses Sharper Image Lawsuit against Consumers Union|last=Barrett|first=Stephen|accessdate=2008-03-05]

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. [cite web|url=|title=Consumer Reports calls air purifier ‘unhealthy’|accessdate=2007-08-09] As a result, sales plummeted, and the stores took back units that were even years old for a cash refund. The Sharper Image's response was to work with the Engelhard Corporation and create an ozone catalyst that would reduce the purified air of excess ozone before it circulated throughout the room. [cite web|url=|title=Sharper Image Ionic Breeze Air Purifiers Are the First to Feature OzoneGuard|accessdate=2007-08-09]

Trump Steaks

In early 2007, The Sharper Image entered into a partnership with Donald Trump to be the "exclusive" sellers of Trump Steaks.cite web|url=|title=The Sharper
] Trump Steaks were actually steaks purchased from food industry supplier Buckhead Beef, re-packaged with the Trump brand, and re-priced higher.Fact|date=July 2008 They were available in five different packages, ranging in price from $99 to $1,000. The packages were delivered via mail in dry ice packaging within two business days of the purchase.

ee Also



* [ Profile from Finance on Yahoo!]
* [ Investor Relations]
* [ "Sharper Image Chairman Jumps Ship," Forbes, 4/10/08]

External links

* [ The Sharper Image website]

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