Is a turnaround taking place at Sharper Image
We already knew that sales growth was going to be dismal from the company's announcement on May 4. It was even a little worse than the original numbers as total first-quarter company sales fell 26%. Same store sales fell 29% -- a little better than originally reported, but still pretty sad. Sadder yet, the company reported a loss of $0.84 per share. Fortunately, inventories decreased 12% sequentially and 25% year over year, implying there should be some room for new items (I'll address why this is important in just a moment).
As I stated in my last write-up, sales have been too dependent on the Ionic Breeze air purifiers and massage chairs as apparently customers have either bought all they can of the items or found a glitzier product to chase after. Management reiterated that weakness in these product areas continues, and until it can revive sales, it is focusing on finding productive ways to cut the fat off of advertising and overhead expenses.
So how does the company plan to kick-start sales? The shotgun approach seems to be the current approach, with 50 new products per month scheduled for this year. And just in time for Father's Day, it sees potential in a product that turns tap water into a germ-fighting substance and food storage containers that can keep food up to four times longer than conventional containers (such as Tupperware
I can't say one way or the other whether these products constitute a collective smoking gun to turn the company's fortunes around, but had you asked me whether the combo of Ionic Breeze and massage chairs would have done the trick, I would have stared blankly, searching for a response. Overall, it's possible we've reached an inflection point to upward sales gains, but more likely, investors will need to be patient until results over the next holiday season are reported.
In addition to sales initiatives and cost-cutting efforts, dissident shareholder Knightspoint Group, which owns about 13% of Sharper Image's common stock, won the right to replace a majority of the company's directors. Current CEO and company founder Richard Thalheimer should also be extremely motivated to get things on the right track as he owns approximately 21% of the common stock.
At some point conditions will improve at the company; it's just a matter of when. Current investors can take solace in the fact that things can't get much worse from a sales perspective, or the fact that Sharper Image trades for one of the lowest enterprise-to-sales ratios in the retail industry, even lower than struggling Pier One
Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann has no financial interest in any company mentioned. Feel free to email him with feedback or to discuss the company further.