There are stores that you walk into with certain products in mind, and there are other stores such as Sharper Image (NASDAQ:SHRP) and Brookstone (NASDAQ:BKST) that give browsing an all-new meaning. A few shots on the cool glass-backboard basket, a couple of songs on the karaoke machine just like in When Harry Met Sally, and you're off strolling through the rest of the mall.

The brain cramp that I have about these stores is quite simple: Why do we need any of these products that supposedly "make life better and more enjoyable?" If I don't have a massage recliner, or a "Bright As Day" lamp, or even the lifesaving robotic vacuum, I'm sure I'll survive to see another day. With the tight battle for discretionary income from retailers such as the Fool's Hidden Gems recommendation RedEnvelope (NASDAQ:REDE), as well as Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), consumers are keeping their purchases fairly simple.

Sharper Image's stock has been in a free fall since February, when it hit $40 per share; the current share price, at around $17, represents a nearly 60% drop in only six months. Although revenue and earnings targets were met in the second quarter, the company lowered its guidance for the third quarter and full-year 2004 "based on softer than expected sales in the first half of August."

What was once expected to be earnings of $0.06 per share for the third quarter is now projected to be a loss of $0.08 to $0.11 per share. Sharper Image also lowered its guidance for 2004 to $1.65 to $1.69 per share from previous expectations of $1.83 to $1.87.

Wall Street is every bit as cutthroat as the retailing industry. Investors might be willing to overlook a shortfall, especially if a company is able to sustain double-digit growth, but they will lose patience fast if they sense a disturbing trend. With Sharper Image seemingly skating on paper-thin ice, a short-term problem appears to have grown into a longer-term predicament.

Want to read more about Sharper Image? Check out:

Fool contributor Phil Wohl spent more than 12 years on Wall Street and now concentrates his writing on more fictional characters. He has no stake in any firm mentioned above.