ThreeSixty Group, which designs and sells consumer products including toys and home goods, has acquired The Sharper Image brand and intellectual property assets from Iconix Brand Group for a reported $100 million in cash.
Since 2008, ThreeSixty Group has licensed the Sharper Image brand from Iconix for a variety of products, including radio-controlled drones, men’s gifts and gadgets, electronics, slippers and home décor, and is the largest licensee of the brand.
ThreeSixty Group, founded in Southern California as “MerchSource” (still the name of its U.S. retail division) in 1999, designs, sources and distributes consumer products under a portfolio of owned and licensed brands, including Blue Hat Toy Company, Black Series, Discovery Kids, Smithsonian and Animal Planet. In October, ThreeSixty Group acquired iconic toy retailer FAO Schwarz from Toys ‘R’ Us.
ThreeSixty Group provides “curated merchandise programs” to major retailers, and its products can be found in some 70,000 retail stores. With the purchase FAO Schwarz and now The Sharper Image, ThreeSixty Group is moving beyond licensing deals to product development, design and marketing of its own brands. Company officials on Friday also announced the establishment of a brands division to support the development and expansion of the Sharper Image and FAO Schwarz brands and alluded to the possibility of adding to that stable.
“This announcement builds on our recent acquisition of FAO Schwarz and advances our strategy to expand our platform both organically and through acquisition as we strive to deliver, directly and with our licensee partners, a more differentiated and expansive product offerings to our retail partners,” ThreeSixty co-founder Johann Clapp said in a statement emailed to Retail Dive.
With the addition of The Sharper Image, ThreeSixty Group will be “expanding into new categories and geographies to realize the full potential of this iconic brand,” co-founder Kirk McLean said in a statement Friday.
“We believe strongly that these investments will unlock attractive new growth opportunities for both ThreeSixty and the brand’s impressive array of licensees,” he said. “Sharper Image is synonymous with innovation and unique, ’giftable’ product designs offered across a wide variety of consumer product categories. As a licensee of the brand for almost ten years, we understand the power of the Sharper Image name and see tremendous opportunity to leverage our platform to continue this tradition of innovation.”
With the acquisition of two famous brands and plans for product development and possibly retail stores as well as distribution deals, ThreeSixty appears to be shifting its focus beyond licensing to outright ownership of brands, and there may be more acquisitions to come. The new brands division will manage the overall brand marketing and business development strategies for Sharper Image, FAO Schwarz and “future acquired brands” — including marketing, new product development and licensee support.
“The goal behind the division is to enhance these brands, to support third-party licensees, and to attract additional consumers and sales opportunities through investments in marketing, advertising, and product development,” Mike Roberts, another ThreeSixty co-founder, said in a statement emailed to Retail Dive. “By leveraging ThreeSixty’s internal product development capabilities and existing retail relationships, the new brands team will coordinate growth initiatives among ThreeSixty and third-party licensees to maximize the potential of each brand in the market.”
Founded in 1977, The Sharper Image is best known for gadgets and other products in the lifestyle, gift, electronics, wellness, fitness and travel categories. At its peak it was a $760 million public company with close to 200 stores nationwide, but in February 2008, The Sharper Image filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy: Beyond the declines in consumer spending that undermined many retailers entering the new millennium, the brand also suffered from disastrous publicity that dogged its once-popular Ionic Breeze Quadra air purifier after Consumer Reports revealed that the Quadra produced trace levels of ozone that could pose dangers to consumers’ health.
Private equity firm Camelot Venture Group acquired the rights to The Sharper Image for an unspecified sum in August 2009, relaunching the print catalog and website the following year. Iconix snapped up the Sharper Image brand in 2011 for approximately $65.6 million in cash, with Camelot continuing to own and operate print and online sales efforts.