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Unclear Future for Sharper Image

The former Inc. 500 gadget retailer has filed for bankruptcy and will close half its U.S. stores, officials say.
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Sharper Image, a novelty consumer electronics retailer that appeared four times on the Inc. 500 list of the nation's fastest growing private companies, has filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11, company officials confirmed this week.

The San Francisco-based company, which specializes in massage chairs, robots and other quirky gadgets, said it plans to close half of its 184 U.S stores while developing a reorganization plan to resolve operational and liquidity problems. Part of the plan includes securing a $60 million loan from Wells Fargo, the company said.

In recent years, Sharper Image has suffered declining sales and bad publicity over its line of Ionic Breeze air purifiers. Once among the company's top-selling products, air purifier sales plunged to 9.4 percent last year, following allegations that the devices emitted ozone. A class action lawsuit is currently pending in California.

The company was listed on the Inc. 500 four times in the 1980s, ranking No.15 in 1982 with $27.9 million in annual sales. 




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