Letting the SkyMall brand die would leave the potential for millions, spent by a combination of bored but inspired travelers, on the table. That's a kind consumerism that America won't let slip away.
SkyMall is coming to back to life and, if its buyers’ dreams come true, will soon show up in more places on travelers’ journeys than ever before.
The quirky seat-back magazine and online shop filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in January 2015, but after three months of flyer anguish, electronics manufacturer C&A Marketing announced it was buying the brand.
C&A, best profiled in this Fast Company post, is well-known for its next generation Polaroid products. But it also has a large section of its business dedicated to tweaking, patenting, and reselling popular consumer electronics. It boasts a broad range of products from mini shower speakers to egg cookers.
“Many of the SkyMall products are similar to the products that we already sell,” says C&A executive vice president Chaim Pikarski. “There’s synergy between what we do and we are experienced at turning around brands.”
Although Pikarski is in talks with airlines to reintroduce the magazine to its rightful position inches from flyers’ knees, he has a vision for SkyMall that extends far beyond its previous role.
Pikarski is looking across the travel ecosystem with ambitions to open airport kiosks and brick-and-mortar stores — think Hudson News meets Sharper Image. He’s also interested in branding travel products with the SkyMall name.
“We’re taking a look at the bigger picture of how we can engage leisure and business travelers,” says Pikarski. “People want their SkyMall and we want to capitalize on that.”
SkyMall will continue to sell an eclectic mix of products, but Pikarski will focus on expanding products that actually solve problems and thinning the selection of more gimmicky items.
That would mean getting rid of items like the 18-foot Bigfoot statue, which Pikarski calls his favorite, and investing in more blow-up mattresses, the kind of practical gift he told Skift he’d get for a loved one.
Social media has played a large role in keeping the brand top of mind as its sales shifted online. The company’s voice across platforms was as playful as its products and Pikarski intends to keep it that way.
At the time of the bankruptcy filing, Scott Wiley, CFO and Acting CEO of SkyMall parent Xhibit, said, “We…are hopeful that SkyMall and the iconic ‘SkyMall’ brand find a home to continue to operate as SkyMall has for the last 25 years.”
It appears to have found just that.
Photo credit: An eagle wall sculpture is just one of the many curious products inside SkyMall's in-flight magazine. Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr