For many, Brookstone's exit from the shopping scene may be as bittersweet as when The Sharper Image closed its doors in 2008, or SkyMall's demise seven years later. Its quirky assemblage of non-essentials -- 3D printing pens, Parrot AR Drones and gigantic Dance Dance Revolution remote controls -- offered customers a welcome escape from the throes of everyday life, and a chance to buy obscure gifts.
In their heyday, Brookstone's all-in-one geek boutiques were able to drive significant foot traffic. But intense competition from rivals -- often selling cheaper products with the added convenience of online purchases -- may have torpedoed any chance of a proper revival. Brookstone CFO Greg Tribou said recent technology shifts in e-commerce triggered data loss which had a "severely damaging" impact upon digital sales.
The Brookstone and Sharper Image aren't isolated cases in America's dead mall saga, either. Just this year, we've seen Toys 'R' Us and Claire's declare bankruptcy. Bloomberg denies e-commerce companies like Amazon are solely responsible for the retail retreat, pointing out younger crowds prefer experiences and services over material possessions. Brookstone -- which now faces up to $500 million debt (though potentially much less) -- revealed supply chain issues and management turnover also contributed to its closure.
Brookstone's CEO Piau Phang Foo said it was a 'difficult' decision to shut down mall stores, but is still keen to continue operations "with a smaller physical footprint". So Brookstone hasn't been completely extinguished from the retail map -- you'll just need to seek out its novelty products online from now on.
This story has been updated to better reflect the potential debt figure.