Editor's note: In a previous version of this story, Whirlpool's HEPA filter was described as "not being worth the money," when in fact it is highly rated by Consumer Reports. The Motley Fool regrets the error.
It's not often that you can lose a class action lawsuit that ends up helping your bottom line, but Sharper Image
Sharper Image's problem began when Consumer Reports ran a story labeling the niche retailer's "Ionic Breeze" air purifier ineffective. That triggered shareholder lawsuits, and though the company points to scientific studies rebutting the allegations, it agreed to offer store credits to customers who bought the air purifier and will sell several other products at a discount.
Based on its tests, Consumer Reports found that the Sharper Image air purifiers had "almost no measurable reduction in airborne particles," and Honeywell's (NYSE: HON) Environizer was also deemed not worth the money, particularly when compared to a highly-rated HEPA filter by Whirlpool(NYSE: WHR).
Sharper Image sells the original Ionic Breeze on its website at a discounted $139.95 (with OzoneGuard!) and it's giving the plaintiffs a $19 store credit to be used on other Sharper Image-branded products. They can also buy the OzoneGuard separately for just $7 -- on the website it costs $39.95. Without a limit on the number of attachments that can be bought, perhaps we'll start seeing them on eBay's
While the total cost to Sharper Image isn't known, because it depends on the number of customers who claim the credit or purchase the grill attachment, what it could do is lead to additional sales. Because customers will only be able to spend their settlement winnings in Sharper Image stores -- they're merchandise credits, after all -- Sharper Image is the one that's coming out ahead here.
Sweet! Because Sharper Image's year-over-year quarterly sales have declined for two years now, coupled with its dramatically falling comps, and the company hasn't filed any financial statements with the SEC since last April. Just last month it received notice that Nasdaq had agreed to extend its lifeline listing until March 1 -- assuming it's able to file on time. Sharper Image has said it needs to restate its 2005 annual report and the first quarterly report for 2006. Perhaps now with the lawsuit settled, it'll be able to file not only the required forms, but also the latest ones, and we'll see if those store credits spawned additional sales.
While the offbeat gadgetry that was the hallmark of Sharper Image can now be found at mainstream electronics stores like Best Buy
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