Sharper Image Exec Discusses the Brand’s Comeback

NEARLY TWO YEARS AFTER Sharper Image Corp., filed for bankruptcy, the brand is returning to the marketplace. The gifts and gadgets business was acquired for $49 million in May 2008 in a joint venture led by private investment firms Hilco Consumer Capital Corp., Gordon Brothers Group, and Bluestar Alliance.

The Sharper Image will now distribute its products in select stores. It plans to have more than 500 branded SKUs in merchandise categories in the market this year. Federico de Bellegarde, the company’s vice president of licensing, shared some objectives with Multichannel Merchant senior writer Jim Tierney.

Describe your plans for Sharper Image. Our mission is to stay true to the brand’s strong legacy while being cognizant of every newly developed product’s quality, innovation and design. Our adherence to these principles — coupled with a broader distribution strategy, strong marketing and cohesive brand identification — will resonate with the brand’s enthusiasts, and we believe we will convert many more.

When is the line expected to debut? A number of Sharper Image branded products are already available in the marketplace, while the lion’s share will be unveiled in the October/November time frame.

Can you talk a bit more about the distribution strategy? Sharper Image branded goods will be sold via retailers such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Kohl’s and Macy’s. This, along with the relaunch of Sharperimage.com in the fall, will allow the brand to reach a much broader audience.

In the approved channels, The Sharper Image will be represented by a number of shop-in-shops, branded displays and/or products displayed within the specific categories.

In the past, SI concentrated on a few big selling items. Will the strategy change? Historically, a significant percentage of product development was initiated inhouse. At times, the benefit with big selling items was mitigated by the research, tooling and development investments necessary for all proprietary products.

The new Sharper Image is based on a license model in which we associate ourselves with “best-in-trade” partners, thus leveraging R&D to their core product competency. This allows for a more focused approach and protects us from the peaks and valleys of product development.

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