SkyMall Crashes, Burns … Balances the Universe Like an Atlas Bar Globe
Well, that's a surprise. Amazon sells not only one type of garden Yeti, but a variety of them. In general, flyers know most such oddities were once only available in SkyMall, the catalog in the seat pocket in front of them. But now, in-flight WiFi means access to e-commerce in the sky, and the crashing to the ground of the iconic in-flight print catalog. Its e-commerce presence remains, but may be sold.
On Friday Xhibit Corp., the parent company of SkyMall, filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
"We are extremely disappointed in this result and are hopeful that SkyMall and the iconic 'SkyMall' brand find a home to continue to operate as SkyMall has for the last 25 years," says Scott Wiley, CFO and acting CEO of Xhibit in Friday's announcement to investors.
This prompted a spate of goofy headlines on Friday, including: "Goodbye, Garden Yeti: In-Flight Catalog SkyMall Files for Bankruptcy," from NPR; "SkyMall Files For Bankruptcy: What About the Serenity Cat Pod?" from the Hollywood Reporter; and "No More USB Cufflinks?! SkyMall Declares Bankruptcy," from the Christian Science Monitor.
Paul Bobnak, Research/Content Director with Direct Marketing IQ, a NAPCO Media brand, tells Target Marketing that there's a delicate dance taking place between e-commerce and print catalogs in 2015, all based on consumer demand.
"This week we found out that JCPenney is bringing back its print catalog, and that SkyMall is going out of business," he says. "And so, the universe balances itself."
Friday afternoon, "SkyMall, 25 years of cool stuff" still appeared atop the site where shoppers could still buy a "personalized cell fone flask" for $19.99 or a "Triceratops dinosaur statue" for $2,799.
In May 2005, direct marketing copywriter Denny Hatch wrote about SkyMall for Target Marketing.
"IMAGINE THIS: You print 16 million catalogs a year that are seen by 500 million upscale prospects (average pass-along ratio is 20-to-1), often cooped up for hours with nothing else to read," he writes about the time when passengers had no WiFi. "Annually, 700,000 orders are placed, typically for 2.1 items at a $110 average order size. Oh, yes, a few more eat-your-heart-out ingredients of your catalog business: You warehouse no inventory, you ship nothing, take no returns, and you don't spend a penny on postage or list rental. Two words describe this model: yum-yum."
On Jan. 5, IBM summarized the effect e-commerce marketers are having on the way people shop in the company's Holiday 2014 report.
"Online sales were up 13.9 percent over the same period in 2013," the research reads.
On Jan. 16, Xhibit announced it was suspending operation of its retail catalog business, which represents "a significant portion" of Xhibit's revenue, according the court filing.
"The company currently intends to continue SkyMall's other business operations, including its online retail business, as it explores available strategic alternatives for the SkyMall business," according to the filing. "In conjunction with the reduction in operations, the company terminated approximately 31 percent of its workforce, the bulk of whom were employed in the company's call center operations."
(The only job still listed on the site on Friday is a call center position in Arizona.)
It's enough to make comedian Ricky Gervais sad.
"Me & @jimmyfallon talking about the late, great Sky Mall magazine," he tweets on Friday, adding a YouTube link. (WARNING: This YouTube video isn't suitable for work.)
Full disclosure: Target Marketing found the pictured Atlas bar globe through a Web search for SkyMall products, but the product isn't on the SkyMall e-commerce site—or Amazon.com. It was jglaze.com, which appears to be a Japanese glass coating company.
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