Sharper Image returns with Times Square pop-up
The Sharper Image, once a fixture of American malls, but for the past decade or so relegated to online, catalog and third-party sales, has opened a pop-up store in New York City, according to the brand's Facebook page.
The two-story location in Times Square will be open seven days a week, "now through the holidays," according to the company. The location opens officially on Nov. 9 and will remain open till mid-January, according to USA Today.
ThreeSixty Group, which designs and sells consumer products, including toys and home goods, acquired The Sharper Image from Iconix Brand Group late last year after licensing the brand from Iconix since 2008, the year of its bankruptcy.
This move says more about ThreeSixty Group's ambitions than about Sharper Image, per se. As the brand's largest licensee for the better part of a decade, ThreeSixty Group helped keep the brand alive and is now leveraging Sharper Image's brand equity, (along with that of iconic toy retailer FAO Schwarz, which it also purchased last year) to move more assertively into retail.
ThreeSixty Group provides "curated merchandise programs" to major retailers, and its products can be found in some 70,000 retail stores. Last year, with the purchase of those two brands, the company said it would move beyond licensing deals to the product development, design and marketing of its own brands. About that time the company also established a division to support the development and expansion of the Sharper Image and FAO Schwarz brands in particular, and alluded to the possibility of adding to that stable.
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 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.
So far, ThreeSixty Group's retail efforts have been low-key, like FAO Schwarz' partnership with struggling department store Bon-Ton to feature its full toy assortment during the holidays, for example. The Sharper Image pop-up is well located, in one of the busiest shopping areas of New York at a time when people are out shopping and tourists are flocking, and it's open seven days a week — but by definition it's temporary. The space, technically before its official launch, is austere and the assortment sparse, according to the description in USA Today.
Still, it's a step forward for the Sharper Image and its parent. Although the brand's pop-up is relatively fleeting and in this case will produce results unique to the holidays, the tactic can provide key information that ThreeSixty Group could use to develop further plans for the brand's retail operations.
"A pop-up is a fantastic test opportunity to launch a new brand, or A/B test one branding approach or another," Michael Decker, VP of marketing strategy at boutique marketing agency Medallion Retail, told Retail Dive least year. "There's no better research than putting a store out on the street."
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