Sharper Image Files Chapter 11, Will Close Half Of Their Stores

Hey want to buy an “ionic air filter”? You don’t? Is it because of that annoying class action lawsuit? Hey guess what? You’re not the only one! After losing a class action lawsuit Sharper Image ” said in court papers it fell victim to “negative publicity” as it fought lawsuits over its Ionic Breeze air purifiers.”

What court papers? Bankruptcy court papers!

From Bloomberg:

Sharper Image Corp., the seller of $300 electric shavers and $1,999 massage chairs, filed for bankruptcy protection, saying it was running low on cash.

The retailer will shed 90 of its 183 stores and is seeking a $60 million loan from Wells Fargo & Co. San Francisco-based Sharper Image plunged as much as 80 percent in Nasdaq trading.

“Sharper Image is in a severe liquidity crisis,” Rebecca Roedell, chief financial officer of San Francisco-based Sharper Image, said in court papers filed last night in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware. “The foregoing has been compounded by the ever-tightening and volatile credit and financing markets.”

Consumer Reports first busted the expensive “Ionic Breeze” air fresheners for being ineffective and potentially dangerous back in 2003, at which time Sharper Image sued the organization unsuccessfully, finally giving up and paying court-ordered attorneys’ fees and costs totaling $525,000. More recently, the Sharper Image lost a class action lawsuit in which plaintiffs claimed that Consumer Reports was correct when it found that the air filters provided “almost no measurable reduction in airborne particles.” A judge recently threw out a proposed settlement in which consumers who bought the expensive air filter would receive a $19 coupon.

Sharper Image air-purifier class-action update [Consumer Reports]
Sharper Image Files For Bankruptcy As Cash Dwindles [Bloomberg] (Thanks, Charlie!)

Comments

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  1. ChrisC1234 says:

    What I don’t get is that the people I know who have the Ionic Breeze air purifiers swear by them.

    I hope they don’t close the store where I live. I rarely (if ever) buy anything there, but they’re fun to go in to.

  2. laserjobs says:

    @ChrisC1234: Wouldn’t you swear by your Ionic Breeze if you were dumb enough to spend $600 on something that is a health hazzard?

  3. Black Bellamy says:

    People “swear” by Monster Cables as well…

    They used to swear about how lead used to cure gout, or how mercury could cure your veneral diseases.

  4. thefezman says:

    Oh, boohoo, they put all their weight behind a product that was all smoke and mirrors and failed because of it? Somehow I don’t feel sorry for them. I’m sure the executives all have golden parachutes of some sort.

    And the only reason people thought their ionic breeze “worked” is because it made the room smell like bleach, and it caught enough dust particles to make the metal plates look black. Beyond that it was useless.

  5. moosetoga says:

    @ChrisC1234: Go go placebo effect!

  6. hi says:

    Shouldn’t the company that makes the air filters be responsible if they don’t work?

  7. Geekybiker says:

    They are amusing distractions when you have some time to kill much like brookstone. However I dont think I’ve ever purchased anything. They’d probably be better off sticking to skymall.

  8. cindel says:

    well damn!

  9. soulman901 says:

    Hey folks, guess what’s coming?
    STORE LIQUIDATION SALE. EVERYTHING MUST GO!!!
    :P

  10. backbroken says:

    I’ve always thought of those Ionic Breeze filters as an idiot beacon. When I walk into a home or a business and see one, I know there is an idiot somewhere in the vicinity.

  11. Christovir says:

    @ChrisC1234: It’s called confirmation bias. [en.wikipedia.org] There are some other cognitive biases at play here too though Laserjobs has the gist of it. Several studies have found that when you give people a choice of several products (which are all essentially the same) people tend to report that theirs is much better, but they start doing so only after they make the purchase. It’s also the root of fanboyism.

  12. RobinB says:

    It was a fun place to visit but I never actually bought anything there.

  13. SOhp101 says:

    @hi: Yes, but Sharper Image sells the ionic air ‘purifiers’ under their name.

    I got a small one for a xmas present one time, and one day I randomly searched and found out that it produces ozone. I threw it away right after.

  14. BubbaJudge says:

    I don’t swear by mine, I sold it for 25 bucks after it gave me decreased lung capacity and sports related asthma. This was before the consumer reports review.

    A true Monster Cable of Air Filters!

  15. B says:

    @RobinB: That’s the whole appeal of Shaper Image, looking at stuff you’d never buy. It’s like they took Sky Mall and made it into a store.

  16. no.no.notorious says:

    @soulman901: HELLL YEAHHHHH!!!

    now i can get that coffee machine with ipod speakers that are also compatible with blue tooth!!!!

  17. NefariousNewt says:

    @Geekybiker: I’ve bought a few things from Brookstone, but never the Sharper Image. heck, you couldn’t even afford a keychain at SI!

  18. soulman901 says:

    @NO.NO.NOTORIOUS
    Wait, is that the model with the USB connection that hooks into your computer that can pull up news from some 3rd World country becuase they want you to believe the corporate giant cares if some poor kid it doesn’t know gets fed or not?

  19. B says:

    @no.no.notorious: Unfortunately, if recent trends hold, the bluetooth iPod coffee maker won’t be any cheaper at the liquidation sale.

  20. spinachdip says:

    I’m surprised it took this long for Sharper Image to go Chap 11. The internet really killed any stranglehold they had on being the go-to place for useless gadgets – with Amazon selling everything under the sun and tech blogs bringing new gadgets to the masses, no one needs the catalog or the mall storefront display.

  21. trinidon2k says:

    When is someone going to sue Head-On?

  22. dreamsneverend says:

    I bought a pocket breathalyser from the store once.. it still provides a lot of fun on bing drinking nights with my pals!

  23. rmz says:

    SkyMall magazine will never be the same.

  24. dancemonkey says:

    Hopefully Brookstone is to follow.

  25. theblackdog says:

    Damn, that’s one less store at the mall I can point to and say “Overpriced crap”

  26. econobiker says:

    The Sharper Image is still around?How 1980′s is that!

    I wonder if they still carry the limited edition Members Only Ferarri Jacket and Porsche Design sunglasses????

  27. Sian says:

    @ChrisC1234: From what I remember of the Consumer Reports review, the concept behind the Ionic air filters is pretty solid, but the Ionic Breeze has a big problem because it has no fan, and ‘ionic action’ isn’t enough to cycle the entire air of a room in less than about a week. The ionic filters with built-in fans for air circulation worked tons better.

  28. Sherryness says:

    Oh dear, where will I get my lighted pepper grinders in the future?

  29. i just bought a nice radio from them. i hope they know how to have a proper going out of business sale.

  30. FLConsumer says:

    You don’t say, a business model straight from (and stuck in) the 1980′s doesn’t work 20 some odd years later? Who’d a thunk it?

  31. airren says:

    @Sherryness: OH, you can get the lighed pepper AND salt grinders at Costco for under $20 (for both!).

  32. redhelix says:

    Jeez, talk about waiting for dinosaurs to die. I used to go to Brookstone and SI when I was scrounging for gift ideas, but they’ve both been replaced with the Electronic Gadgets section on Newegg. Where the else are you going to find a $20 ripcord-powered LED flashlight that can recharge your cell phone?

  33. Um, I had my first (and only) asthma attack when we got an ionic breeze. I’ll take my sneezing and invisible dust particles over that any day.

  34. SchecterShredder says:

    I can’t believe how many people here have reported being sickened by this ionic breeze contraption. When I saw how much they cost I couldn’t help but laugh my ass off at ANYONE who would rationalize the purchase of this so-called “air cleaner”.

  35. starrion says:

    If only they had tried selling stuff that worked.

    I am -glad- to see a company that systematically defrauded comsumers going bankrupt. I hope the ultimate settlement in the Ionic breeze cases finishes them.

    The company that makes Enzyte should have the same.

  36. BubbaJudge says:

    @ SCHECTERSHREDDER

    yeah isnt it amazingly easy to be a monday morning quarterback after all the reports come out.

    oh I forgot no one here ever makes a consumer mistake, lol

    at least I admit my gift of an ionic breeze was a mistake. are you going to admit to those 400 dollar monster cables?

    heh

  37. darkened says:

    @Christovir: I do not own a PS3 or Bluray player yet since it’s conception i have said PS3 is vastly superior to XBOX360 and that Bluray will destroy HD-DVD.

    The PS3 has sold 10 million units 4 months ahead of XBOX360 with no super block buster games even, what will happen when GTA4 & MGS4 & FF13 come out? I’ll be buying one for sure =]

  38. Howie411 says:

    Does anyone know what happened with this settlement that was rejected. There was a website setup about it, but the URL no longer works and no word on the status.

  39. @soulman901: Line up for your ineffective air filter.

    I believe the exact comparison consumer reports used was that it was as effective at pulling crap out of the air as a half grapefruit. The killer was the lack of a fan.

    Definite idiot test. Definite junk science product. Probably a decent proxy for lottery ticket purchasers.

  40. GenXCub says:

    I use the ionic air purifiers (the less expensive Fry’s electronics versions), and I like them, but it’s just to make it so I don’t dust as often.

    In a city like Las Vegas, dust gets EVERYWHERE. It’s like sand at the beach getting in all the cracks.

    I don’t claim that it helps my breathing any, but it does sure trap a hell of a lot of stuff.

  41. unklegwar says:

    I guess you just can’t ALWAYS make a profit selling overpriced, low quality, useless junk. What’s this world coming to?

  42. tom2133 says:

    @backbroken: HAHA!! My boss has one in his office!

  43. woodenturkey says:

    First Wilson, now SI. The mall is dying. Even at the “Galleria” (which used to be the shit for Yuppies ) here in Birmingham stores are closing left and right. It seems the new upscale strip mall is the new way to get fools to let go of their money.

  44. DCGaymer says:

    @woodenturkey: LOL…Galleria was “The Shit” … LMAO.

  45. friendlynerd says:

    This is going to cause a major identity crisis for pushy salespeople who think they’re the shit because they work at Sharper Image. Seriously, the ‘tude there is outrageous.

  46. Sherryness says:

    @airren:
    Groovy, thanks! (I love Costco.)

  47. tripnman says:

    Can’t wait for the CompUSA / Wilson’s model of store closing – let’s all go pick up our “severely discounted” air purifiers after they mark up 100% then knock $35 off!

    Woot!

  48. banmojo says:

    they need to return to the business model that made them popular in the first place: selling James Bond style spy gadgets to grown men who fantasize about being Bond. FUN!!

  49. smoothtom says:

    I wonder if the Sharper Image at Easton Towne Center in Columbus is closing. Knowing the type of jackass that loves Easton, I’d imagine the Sharper Image there is one of the few that makes any money.

  50. ganzhimself says:

    Whenever I’m around one of those IonicBreeze purifiers I always get short on breath and I get a bad headache. Glad to see their BS tactics are finally f’ing them over.

  51. krom says:

    Retail 101: Don’t have stores that are more fun to visit than they are to buy from.

    I never understood Sharper Image, but at least at one point they stayed in shop centers that catered to the upper yuppie classes. Then they started showing up in every mall over 500,000 sq. ft., and they looked out of place.

    Yeah, their stuff is cool, but pricey, and probably often overpriced. (The sliding-door CD player should have come down a long time ago.) And probably don’t work nearly as well as they look (ditto).

    Sounds like they banked hardcore on the Ionic Breeze, which seems to have satisfied both of those criteria as well.

  52. neega says:

    forgive me for being the idiot in the bunch. but we bought the professional ionic breeze with “germicidal protection” (a UV lamp that kills bacteria and spores) and it was worth every penny of $600.

    We figured out our new apartment was mold infested when the rains hit. My husband is very sensitive and was having life threatening symptoms. While we were breaking our lease and looking for another place, I bought the Breeze GP out of desperation. It was the only thing with that technology at the time (they sell the UV lamp separately now). It really helped! Plus while we were cleaning out the place, we left it on as the last item to pack up. I figured we only had some last things to carry out and some basic cleaning to do so I turned it off and put it in the car. Back in the apartment, it took about 5 minutes for a massive migraine to attack from the mold. I brought it back in while we finished packing the rest of the stuff…the migraine went away 10 minutes later and we were able to finish out the job and leave. The Breeze came with us after everything else was done. Placebo, perhaps, but I was convinced after that.

    My point is, not all of their products suck. I’ll be looking for the UV only model on (a real) clearance at one of my local stores.

  53. jmuskratt says:

    @neega: I too am an idiot. I got a refurb ionic breeze and it does as promised. My allergies are less bothersome, and there’s a nice neutral “scent” in the room it’s in. No headaches, no bleeding from my nose and anus, no cancer so far.

  54. some_stupid_nut says:

    My dad smokes and we have two Ionic Breezes at home, they work for us.

  55. SacraBos says:

    @ChrisC1234: And therein lies part of the problem! Window shoppers don’t help the bottom line.

  56. woodenturkey says:

    @DCGaymer:

    yea now its turning into Century Plaza.

  57. redhelix says:

    Okay, to everyone who bought the ionic breeze because of a health condition: I understand your plight and really, believe me when I say I empathize with you. But what the hell were you doing buying new, untested, overpriced crap from the Sharper Image to improve your environment? Have you never heard of HEPA filters, and the vacuums/air purifiers that have used them with great effectiveness since the 60′s?

  58. guroth says:

    I got an Ionic Breeze for $250. Sometimes I can notice a stale smell if I place it in a small room with no ventilation, but the reduced amount of dust on items and surfaces is definitely noticeable. I don’t have any breathing problems or allergies so I cannot comment on their effectiveness there.

  59. deadlizard says:

    Oh, no! Where am I going to buy my Trump Steaks now?

  60. tinmanx says:

    I have to admit, I own an ionic breeze. Those things are designed to FAIL! My unit was probably used a total of 4 months before we tossed it into the closet because it was pretty useless and we couldn’t stand the smell. The following year we dug it out of the closet for some reason and tried to use it, and it doesn’t start up.

    After some googling I found that there is a small circuit board in the back of the unit that connects 2 cables together that tends to rot. Upon farther inspection it seems the circuit board serves absolutely no purpose, the board is basically blank other than a thin strip of solder that connects the two cables. I soldered the two cables together and the unit work again. Won’t buy anything from them again, but I do like visiting.

  61. AnnC says:

    @neega: I don’t doubt your symptoms are real but you headache coming and going maybe because of you expectation that the ionic breeze is working instead of the ionic breeze itself working (see the placebo effect referenced earlier). Randomly turn the ionic breeze on or off without telling your husband and see if he notices (yeah, it’s only a single blind test but so what).

  62. notallcompaniesareevil says:

    All,
    They will still be in business (at least for the near future). So you will still be able to gawk at their SkyMall and bricks and mortar monstrosities.
    I enjoyed looking at their magazines when I was younger. Don’t know if I’ve grown up or the store has gone down hill. I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything from there. Lowest ratio of dollars to hours in all my shopping.

  63. Parapraxis says:

    what do hospitals use? HEPA filters. Big ass, room cleaning HEPA systems.

    Compared to Ionic Breezes, they’re inexpensive, powerful, and proven to work.

  64. CPC24 says:

    @tripnman: That’s the wonderful liquidator, Gordon Brothers. I’m sure they’re taking over Sharper Image stores as we speak.

  65. radio1 says:

    The Ionic Breeze was a joke from the beginning.

    Anyone who graduated from high school or college with competent knowledge of science would see through them. They had no fan to move air across the unit’s collection plates, so their effective radius is probably about several feet. Once the collection plates are dirty, you have to clean the unit.

    Sure it may actually ‘lower’ the dust content in home. But not in the way you think. With no fan to move air across and no HEPA filter to accumulate allergens and particles– what happens? The dust falls (going ‘lower’) to the floor and is less noticeable than a dusty bureau or table.

    I agree with REDHELIX just get a good HEPA filter vac and steam cleaner unit and you’ll go a long way in reducing, ‘indoor pollution’, isn’t that how SI put it?

    Even that guy from ORECK, made a unit with a HEPA filter and a fan.

  66. meneye says:

    @soulman901: yeah, everything must go at 5% off. what was 600 bucks will only by 550.

    I’m glad those stores are closing. They seemed to have some pretty expensive crap in there anyway.

  67. Pinget says:

    Sharper Image has $700,000 in the bank and $200 million in debt. Mind boggling.

  68. mariospants says:

    I got stuck on the Sharper Image catalog and email list but I kept on it because sometimes they have interesting items to look at. Regardless of their ever-increasingly desparate bids to get my attention, I never bought anything there. The products aren’t nearly different enough from what you can get at Target and the prices, well let’s just say that the (actually really functional) Swiss-made humidifier they sell was something like $60 more than at my local Home Hardware. Going out of business? No surprise here.

  69. rolla says:

    @B: hahaha…so true. The sky mall has such interesting, yet useless stuff.

  70. Milkham says:

    It’s good that they’re going bankrupt. They sell junk at ridiculous prices.

  71. Imhotep says:

    What are all the people involved in the class-action suit going to do?? The $19 store-credit is worthless and the judge ruled that “the parties involved in the class action had not established that the settlement terms were “fair, adequate, or reasonable,””. The least they should do is tell people where they can “recycle” them a-la Office Space.

  72. MYarms says:

    A friend of mine used to live in a really small 1 bedroom apartment. Sometimes there would be 5 of us in there chain smoking cigarettes and stuff. Well he had an ionic breeze and all I know is that thing would suck all of the smoke out of the air. I don’t know where it went or what it was actually doing but his place NEVER smelled like smoke.

  73. goller321 says:

    Crap, time to use up those Discover SI gift cards….

  74. redx says:

    Chapter 11 is reorganization, NOT liquidation. Its most likely Sharper Image will still exist after the bankruptcy proceeds although probably not under the same owners.

  75. BeFrugalNotCheap says:

    Hey, all the venom about people that bought the purifier need to chill out. My mom bought two a few years ago and has had no trouble with them. In fact, my dad smokes like a damn chimney and that metal filter thingy in the purifier is almost constantly gummed up with black soot. So it must work *somewhat*.

  76. IDK, I always kind of liked Sharper Image. I’ve never bought anything there but it’s fun to walk around their stores.

  77. Anonymous says:

    someone once gave me a $50 SI gift card for Christmas and I must have visited the store 3 times trying to find something. I ended up throwing the card away as I could find nothing under $50 that was worth a crap. Now that I think about it, I couldn’t find anything over $50 that was worth a crap either.

  78. Charlotte Rae's Web says:

    Lillian Vernon, the catalog place that sells random crap, is going under too.

    I wonder if there is some useless crap manufacturing place that sends the higher junk to SI and the lower end to LV.