ThreeSixty Brands Readies Sharper Image Franchise Program
Having signed new product licensing agreements for the Sharper Image brand, ThreeSixty Brands is embarking on a franchise program that will return it to retail, says ThreeSixty’s David Conn.
The timing for opening new franchised Sharper Image locations hasn’t been set, but the strategy will focus on 3,000-5,000-sq. ft. mall-based stores. The retail plan will build on the 12,000-sq. ft. pop-up store in New York’s Times Square late last year.. The franchised stores would contain a mix of licensed Sharper Image products and those from third-party suppliers.
“Sharper Image is a brand that lends itself to product demonstration and we think that is missing at retail right now,” says Coon. “There needs to be a sense of theater at retail and Sharper Image is perfectly suited for that.”
Despite many U.S. shopping malls struggling financially, Conn says they remain prime real estate for Sharper Image. Sharper Image was a hallmark of shopping malls prior to its closing 187 stores and liquidating in 2008. ThreeSixty Group, parent of ThreeSixty Brands and long-time Sharper Image licensee Merchsource, bought the brand from Iconix for $100 million in late 2016.
“We don’t have any stores right now, so if we could find 20-40 productive malls, the right partner and the right concept that is very experiential, we could do well,” says Conn.
In buying Sharper Image, ThreeSixty also took over 10-12 licensing agreements. ThreeSixty wants to expand the Sharper Image brand into licensed eyewear, kitchen appliances and outdoor living (grills, furniture, camping gear). It recently signed a series of deals — with Conair (curling irons, hairdryers, razers); Allstar Products Group (electronics, home goods); Mystic Apparel (apparel, bedding, toys) and Aerus (air purifiers) — that are slated to deliver products in 2019.
“You have to remain true to what your brand stands for, which in the case of Sharper Image is feature-rich products with solid industrial design,” says Conn. “These are products that you may not need, but you have to have. That is a unique brand proposition that allows us to cover a lot of categories.”
ThreeSixty Group also includes FAO Schwarz as well as recently acquired the appliance manufacturer Vornado, which will continue to produce portable heaters and fans under its own and Sharper Image labels, says Conn.
Meanwhile, the 20,000-sq. ft. FAO Schwarz flagship store remains scheduled to open late this year at Rockefeller Center in New York. It will feature 12-15 vendors, each with separate sections/displays along with a Sharper Image store-in-store format, says Conn. A 27,000-sq. ft. location will follow in early 2019 in Beijing, operated by licensee Kidsland. Kidsland plans to open a second flagship store in Shanghai, along with 50 smaller, 5,000-sq. ft. mall stores during the next five years. That is up from the 30 smaller locations forecast earlier this year. Hudson Group also will open 15 U.S. airport-based FAO Schwarz stores.
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