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Monday, July 21, 2008

The Future in History

posted by on July 21 at 10:24 AM

-5.jpg An idea: The death of Sharper Image marks the completion of the future’s movement from specialization to generalization. The future can no longer be isolated; it is everywhere, it is the now of it all.

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Does this mean I'm going to have to buy my personal submarine at Costco?

Posted by Mass Quantities | July 21, 2008 10:33 AM

Sharper Image is a victim of its own success. It was a key part of the marketing of superfluous crap in the 1980s that really solidified a shift in pop culture toward worshipping yuppie power and new forms of conspicuous consumption (despite growing inequaliies in wealth that make such consumption more and more reliant upon consumer debt).

Who needs one show called lifestyles of the rich and famous when so much pop culture is essentially just variation on the theme? What defines sharper image, when up-selling of unnecessary amenities in basic goods and superfluous consumer gizmos is everyone's modus operandi now?

But I don't think this is a triumph of generalization. It's the fragmenting of niche markets with their expansion. Made possible by the internet.

Posted by Trevor | July 21, 2008 10:43 AM

As long as Brookstone, SkyMall, and Hammacher-Schlemmer are still in business, I don't think it means anything at all.

Posted by Fnarf | July 21, 2008 10:44 AM

I thought Sharper Image closing was the result of poor financial planning along with a buisness plan that lacked flexability to adapt to changing economic conditions. But you know...

Posted by Andrew | July 21, 2008 10:45 AM

Don't make me tell your mother to take your McLuhan books away from you.

Posted by Librarian@Play | July 21, 2008 10:47 AM

I saw them haul the submarine out of there, unsold.

It was fake--FAKE!

Posted by NapoleonXIV | July 21, 2008 10:48 AM

I've never met anyone that actually bought anything at Sharper Image. I've also never understood buying goods to impress people unless there was a functional purpose like vibrators or ti calculator

Posted by Bellevue Ave | July 21, 2008 10:49 AM

the future is everywhere? really charles? don't you feel just a little bit silly?

Posted by douglas | July 21, 2008 10:49 AM

@7: Philistine! One can simply not explain the joys of owning ion-purifying suit-hangers to the likes of you!

Posted by NapoleonXIV | July 21, 2008 10:51 AM

The real problem for the Sharper Image was that they dont carry enough Ohio State or Notre Dame branded merchandies while skymall has and always will.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | July 21, 2008 11:12 AM

Insomnia can lead to mixed tenses on your verbs!

Posted by Bellevue Ave | July 21, 2008 11:14 AM

@11- meaning it should be "the future can NO longer be isolated"?

Posted by the future | July 21, 2008 12:00 PM

there is only now.

Posted by max solomon | July 21, 2008 12:29 PM

But where will upper class ladies buy their ... massage devices?

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 21, 2008 1:09 PM

Sharper image had a really strange niche - it successfully marketed average-quality (Bose), in many cases well below average (Ionic Breeze, oh God I feel bad for anyone that actually needed a purifier that got duped into one of those) consumer electronics and somehow thrust them into the realm of status symbol.

With their death, rich people can go back to having better stuff than me. Sorta.

Posted by Dougsf | July 21, 2008 1:24 PM

Sharper Image had pretty much degenerated into a "as seen on TV" store lately. I'd rather shop at Brookestone...if I had any money.

Posted by Silverstar98121 | July 21, 2008 1:38 PM

I could have sworn Charles was making sense last week.

Posted by Dan | July 21, 2008 2:37 PM

Sharper Images problem? They didn't have any Elvis in them.

Elvis is everywhere!
Elvis is in everything!

Posted by uh hunh hunh | July 21, 2008 5:47 PM

I work for a company that manages and tracks gift cards, and I've been following retailers filing for bankruptcy on My advice? Go spend your gift cards, you may not know how long they will be accepting them. Don't forget The Sharper Image incident: $75m in unused gift cards.

Posted by Austin Chu | July 21, 2008 6:17 PM

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