Now that Sharper Image declared bankruptcy and plans to close down 90 out of its 180 stores, us (vibrating) armchair quarterbacks are all trying to figure out why the store shut down. The Washington Post explores, and says that the chain's downfall came because it remained the same—stainless steel tools that streamlined "your life by .002 percent"—while the rest of the world changed.
That, and this:
The company also made a bunch of strategic missteps. It relied too heavily on blockbuster products, like the Razor scooter. It sold a ton of Ionic Breeze air purifiers, which Consumer Reports panned so viciously in 2002 that a class action lawsuit was filed against Sharper Image for refunds. (A judge's rejection of a settlement to that lawsuit—she didn't like the $19 store coupon proposed for each Ionic owner—seemed to precipitate the Chapter 11 filing.)
So are we going to only be left with Brookstone, which is privately held by some Asian company that makes high-end massage chairs? Perhaps. None of us can really tell the difference between the two companies anyway. When's the last time we went there when we weren't trying to pass the time while our wives/girlfriends shopped? As the post says, "If you want to stoke your gadget lust, you head to Gizmodo or Engadget, two of roughly 74 million gadget blogs. Or you head to the Apple Store, or Circuit City." [Washington Post]