Will SkyMall Magazine Be The Next Casualty in Print Media?

April 29, 2014

Say the word “SkyMall” to your friends, and you’ll likely hear giggles. Someone will probably recall one of the ridiculous and silly products they feature — a lot of upright sleeping pillows come to mind for me, including this gem.

SkyMall is the exclusive in-flight catalog of most of the major airlines for nearly 25 years, and it’s brokered exclusive deals that cover 90 percent of passengers on U.S. flights. The math adds up: A whopping 650 million consumers in the U.S.  have access to SkyMall every year. Compare that to the other marketing Holy Grail, the Super Bowl — which brought in a record 111.5 million viewers this year — and it’s clear that SkyMall has some very real marketing muscle.

But it’s not all roses and tchotchkes for the quarterly magazine. According to the Los Angeles Times, the company lost $3.2 million last year alone. Why? A big reason: expanding in-flight wifi and loosening regulations on smartphones and tablets during takeoff and landing mean SkyMall is losing the captive audience that was once flipping through its catalogs.

Skymall Magazine's Top Seller: Garden Yeti Statues

Skymall Magazine’s Top Seller: Garden Yeti Statues

But there’s still plenty of opportunity for the company. Even with the changing regulations in the skies, the company actually makes 60 percent of its revenue through sales from its website. The LA Times goes into the details of SkyMall’s push to develop a robust online strategy that differentiates itself from other high-powered online retailers, like Amazon.com.

Part of that strategy is the company’s dedication to its business motto of selling “the coolest stuff on the planet,” including one of its all-time bestsellers, the Garden Yeti. A statue of the  ape-like legend comes in three different sizes for your garden (up to six feet tall), and more than 10,000 statues have been sold.

And apparently the value is still there for the businesses that pay to advertise their wares in the SkyMall catalog, which is not cheap. A half-page ad will run you $23,900 per month, with a three-month minimum agreement.

Selling in SkyMall paid off for David Coffaro, a Pittsburgh entrepreneur who invented an alarm clock specifically made for naps that lets people set a timer for increments of 15, 30 and 60 minutes.


He said he sold about 100 “Napper” clocks at $14.99 directly through SkyMall after it appeared in the catalog in winter 2012. But he said he sold an additional 8,000 through his own website thanks to the SkyMall exposure.


“There was a huge uptick in sales,” Coffaro said.

What’s next for SkyMall? I’d suggest looking at ways to remind consumers of all that Skymall has to offer, but the product design team apparently discovered a Breathalyzer-style device that hooks up to a smartphone, and that sounds cool, too.