Thursday, February 17, 2011

Skymall – Love It or Hate It, It Can’t be Denied

As a follow-up to my semi-rant against ‘as seen on TV products,’ I want to confess that I have a love-hate relationship with Skymall.

Every time I fly, I feel compelled to see what’s new in the Skymall catalog, and yet I also love to make fun of the often random, odd and seemingly useless products.

But when desperate for reading material, I will peruse the catalog from cover to cover, and it can keep me occupied as I provide running commentary on the products to my flying companion. Skymall has always come through for me as far as entertainment value goes.
What can you say about a catalog that showcases life-size sasquatch resin sculptures for your backyard, shoes that make you taller, gadgets to spy on your neighbors, virtual reality goggles, a box that winds your watches for you and more?

As a business model, it’s not a bad idea. You’ve got a captive audience on the plane, and they make it easy to order. Like a good infomercial, they present the products in a way that makes them more appealing than they probably really are.

Based on (unsourced) information I found online*, the Skymall company is based in Phoenix and was incorporated in 1989. With 200 employees, it reported sales of just over $100 million in annual sales in 2007 ($60m in 1997). It’s a public company – is there Skymall stock to be had? It is described as “the largest in-flight catalog company in the U.S.” – are there others? Clearly the market share leader in the in-flight catalog business. (The company has also said to have diversified into other things like developing shopping Web sites for other companies and managing reward programs for credit cards, according to CEO Christine Aguilera. {yes, named Christine Aguilera})

Found on 90 % of domestic flights and said to reach 620 million passengers a year. That’s a lot of Sasquatches.

The airlines get a cut of the action, but I wonder how much it costs to place a product in the catalog and how much of a sales bump the retailers can expect from that placement. If you can land a product on the Home Shopping Network or similar, it’s like a cash register ringing – they measure their sales in dollars per minute. I wonder if Skymall offers the same kind of sales nirvana for the makers of the power pooper scooper or the end table that looks like a shoe.

Skymall Mondays
I know today is Wednesday, but I love that has “Skymall Mondays,” in which a different Skymall product is reviewed in a tongue-in-cheek way each week, with reviews covering such coveted items as the hair restoration laser, temperature regulating sheets, a harness to drag luggage with, spy gear and lighted slippers. These reviews are as entertaining as the products themselves, which is to say I find them to be very funny.

Per Gadling, there are also apparently some products that get rejected from Skymall, though I’m not sure why. What criteria did these not meet?

Ok, the female urine funnel, I can see why that one might get rejected. But the gadget to turn a hot-dog into a little hot-dog person? (called the Frankformer, bien sur) Not sure how that’s any different from a lot of the other stuff in there.

Confession, I have purchased something from the catalog once, some recycling bins. Why I would choose to buy giant plastic bins through the mail, I don’t know. That is the power of Skymall. The bins are in the garage and at least they get used, tho for storage and not for recyclables.

Have you ever bought anything from Skymall? I’d love to hear your experience, if it met your expectations or not.

Until we meet again, Skymall.

"Using a fabric developed for NASA to help astronauts adapt to extreme temperature fluctuations, these sheets prevent overheating and eliminate chills to create an optimal sleeping climate. Imbedded in the sheets are millions of invisible microcapsules that absorb excess heat when you are hot and release the stored heat when you are cold, ensuring a comfortable bed temperature and humidity. Unlike an electric blanket, the microcapsules adjust independently to an individual's climate, allowing two sleepers with different temperature preferences to remain comfortable throughout the night."

* Sources: Clearly this article is old, and it talks about such technical innovations as WordPerfect and NeXT personal computers.


  1. Love this post :-) I, too, am both repelled yet fascinated by the mysteries held betwixt Skymall's pages. And your blog is so much more accessible than Gadling's — perhaps you'll consider reviewing the occasional exceptionally-noteworthy product for us, from time to time.

  2. Will, I accept your challenge and your compliment. ;) do you think it would be a tax write-off to buy some of the products if I review them? I'll have to look into that ... imagine being able to deduct the gravity-defying shoes!