It’s being reported by most major news organizations that the company who runs SkyMall, the ubiquitous inflight magazine that sells everything from steps to help your dog get into bed to exclusive sports memorabilia, has entered bankruptcy. Scott Mayerowitz points out some of the obvious issues with SkyMall:
But in recent years, passengers have found other distractions. More planes have seatback TV screens. The federal government now allows us to keep Kindles and iPads on during the entire flight. And most jets in the U.S. now have Wi-Fi meaning passengers can chat with friends back home or actually do work.
“Nobody’s bored anymore. They don’t have a captive audience,” says John DiScala, who runs the travel advice site JohnnyJet.com “Not only is it full of germs but travelers today have all the information they need at their fingertips.”
That’s certainly part of it, but SkyMall has also fallen victim to a form of”showrooming”, where people normally visit a brick & mortar store, like their local Best Buy, to look at new TV. When it comes time to make their purchase, they’re heading home to their computer to find the cheapest price.
In the early days of SkyMall there were few alternate sources for many of the items they carried. With Amazon, hundreds of other online retailers, and powerful search engines, you can find a fair number of those products elsewhere (sometimes for less money). At any rate, as shoppers in a digital world we’re programmed to do a bit of searching to find the best deal on the internet.
To be fair, I’ve bought a couple of things from SkyMall. I recall one purchase to maximize a mileage promotion (the old US Airways Grand Slam promo, iirc). And, I seem to remember a piece of sports memorabilia my wife may have purchased for me, though the more I think about it the more I think she found the same item direct from the seller (SkyMall has partnerships with retailers to rep their products in their catalog).
SkyMall used to have a captive audience. In some cases, they still do. But, I’m guessing their demo skews older (like my father, who doesn’t own a tablet or smartphone). Millenials aren’t likely to be purchasing as often from a catalog as previous generations.
They probably still have a successful business model. The list of creditors includes some hefty debt to some of the biggest airlines ($1.6 million to American Airlines, for example). SkyMall pays the airlines to keep their place in the seat back pocket. The fact that the airlines would allow that much debt while still carrying the product on their planes speaks to the fact that they don’t think they can find someone else to replace that revenue if they kick SkyMall to the curb. So, maybe there’s a way out of this. But, I suspect that SkyMall is a name that we’ll talk about in the past tense sometime in the not-too-distant future.
And, maybe I’m all wrong. Could be that they just need to solve this colon cleanser thing……
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