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Sharper Image Looks Sharp

By Jeff Hwang
December 29, 2003

Shares of Shaper Image (Nasdaq: SHRP) climbed 8% on Friday after the gadget retailer reported "robust holiday sales" and raised its fourth-quarter earnings guidance.

For the period December 1 through 24, Sharper Image reports that sales grew 30% from last year, with same-store sales up an impressive 21%. Internet sales climbed 34%.

In an interview with Reuters, CFO Jeff Forgan attributed the boom to the introduction of more practical, lower priced products and the resulting shift of the average buyer's household income from over $150,000 to between $50,000 and $100,000.

For years, the retailer was best known for lavish products -- most notably its electronic massage chairs -- one might walk into the store to try out, but would be unlikely to purchase. Nowadays, you'll find Sharper Image's more affordably priced ionic air filters in apartments across America.

And like (Nasdaq: OSTK) (highlighted in Motley Fool Hidden Gems), Sharper Image has benefited from another shift: Its customers are now predominantly female. This makes some sense in that the company sells a lot of male-oriented gifts, and gift-givers are likely attracted by reasonable prices.

Personally, I find the company's robotic vacuum cleaner particularly attractive (hint, hint: my birthday's coming up).

As a result of the strong sales, Sharper Image raised its fourth-quarter earnings guidance a few pennies to $1.34 to $1.38 per share. Full-year guidance was also bumped up slightly to between $1.57 and $1.61 per share.

Though earnings will climb an astounding 54% year over year, that figure represents a more modest 30% increase on a per share basis, reflecting the increased sharecount resulting from a secondary stock offering earlier this year.

Clearly, Sharper Image's more practical product offerings are paying off. As for investors, while the shares offer little in the way of margin of safety, they look reasonably valued at over 21 times this year's earnings.

Flaunt your ionic air filter and massage chair on the Sharper Image discussion board -- only at Jeff Hwang owns shares of, and can be reached at
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