SkyMall's Time-Wasting Shopping Catalogs Are Dying

Sorry in-flight shoppers, your blissful consumeristic ride may be coming to an end — blame your iPhone and that bootleg movie on your iPad.

Those SkyMall magazines that live in the backs of airplane seats might be a thing of the past. The company lost $3.2 million last year alone and what’s more, their biggest selling item is a nearly life-size Garden Yeti. According to the LA Times, people who know about these kinds of things, or maybe watched the demise of Montgomery Ward, say SkyMall must modernize or forgo another robust quarter.

"SkyMall feels to me like it's in a time warp," said New York retail consultant Bob Phibbs. "It looks the same as it always has."

For the last two decades, SkyMall has been a symbol of America's love affair with kitsch and a respite for bored airline passengers. But the magazine needs a digital game plan to avoid domination by other online retailers such as Amazon.com.

"They need to look at new products," Phibbs said. "How many elevated pet food bowls do I need?"

Elevated pet food bowls? SkyMall executives say they’re working to upgrade their presentation and delivery of quirky, impulse products but while the revenue is falling for the retailer, small time inventors hawking their wares are still reaping the benefits.

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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 each 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.

Perhaps SkyMall can cruise deeper into 2014 with a few changes, who knows.

ps. Can't you just set your phone's alarm to wake you up from a 15, 30 or 60 minute nap? Why would you need a special alarm clock to ... argh.

Image via SkyMall.