Report: Brookstone headed for bankrupcy

Brookstone was one of the first retailers to sell the Segway.

Bad news today for those who like to kill time in airports browsing in a Brookstone store: There's word via the Wall Street Journal that the company -- purveyor of massage chairs, memory foam slippers and robotic pets -- is getting ready to file for bankruptcy protection.

If you haven't been in a Brookstone in a while, here's what you're missing: Indoor/outdoor wireless speakers, remote control stunt helicopters and of course, a line of massage chairs.

The deluxe bluetooth-body scanning model goes for $4,600.

"That's just it; not a lot of people need the novelty stuff," says electrical engineer Curt Stanfield.

I found Stanfield at the mall in Towson, Maryland, checking out a $60 remote control car on his lunch break.

"I think, you know, especially if the economy's down or people are trying to be wise with their money, they're not going to be shopping in a place like Brookstone," he says, "I mean, it's a neat place. There's nifty things, but it's not a place I'm going to be taking my money."

Brookstone didn't get back to us for comment. But the Journal blames sagging sales and heavy debt for the bankruptcy filing.

Rajiv Lal teaches retailing at Harvard Business School, and says many stores are fighting the same battle; becoming essentially showrooms for Amazon. People try something out and then look online.

"Many times they would find something comparable at much lower prices, especially on the internet," says Lal, "And that's what becomes so difficult for stores like Brookstone to be able to close a sale."

Lal is working on a book called "Will Your Retail Store Survive?"

Spencer's apparently thinks Brookstone will. The Journal reports the company has no plans to close stores or cut staff and Spencer's has a history of reinvention.

According to Forbes, the catalog business that started in the 60s now makes about half its revenue from Spirit Halloween and its pop-up costume stores.


Here's a look at some of the most novel . . . novelties that Brookstone offered:

Sphero 2.0 App-Controlled Wireless Robotic Ball

$129.99

It’s a ball. That’s also a robot. That you control with your phone.

Kinetic Sand

$14.99

Sand at the beach too messy? Here’s sand that soft, stretchy, and slightly strange to the touch.

Video Camera Pen

$79.99

This pen takes HD video and holds an hour and a half of memory. No word on whether it was inspired by James Bond’s pen in Octopussy.

Quad Watch Winder

$199.99

How many watches do you need to wind at the same time? If the answer is four, then you’re the target market for the Quad Watch Winder.

OSIM uDivine S Massage Chair

$3,399.00

Brookstone is famous for selling massage chairs, and this one features something called 3D massage.

Towel Warmer

$89.99

If cold towels were somehow a problem for you, well, they won’t be a problem anymore when you have a device that warms towels.

Virtual Keyboard

$119.99

The virtual keyboard projects a laser keyboard onto any surface you’d like, meaning you won’t have to worry about phone keypads being too small for your fingers anymore.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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