The History of Skymall

Need a floating poker table? How about a bug vacuum? Maybe you’re in the market for a laser hair growth helmet or a cure for the common shingles? It’s hard finding basic products like these and nearly impossible to find them all in one place. Luckily, there’s Skymall, your one-stop shop for the the most practical to the most absurd products consumers have ever known. Nowadays, anyone who travels is intimately familiar with the seat pocket publication, but few know how it all began.

In 1989, Skymall’s founder, Robert Worsley, conceived of Skymall after reviewing the gift sections in an airline’s in-flight magazine. Worsley was appalled by the lack of decent gifts in Skymall and thought to create a dedicated shopping magazine, one with great products that travelers would be dying to get their hands on. Skymall was the obvious creation that resulted from this simple, yet innovative idea. He sourced products from name brand manufacturers like The Sharper Image and Land’s End and created a catalog that was filled with “good products”.

Early Days
At first, Skymall operated on a business model as ludicrous as a wineglass holder necklace. Instead of ordering from Skymall at your leisure and have products shipped to your home—like a sane person—Skymall went a step further to provide customers with the ultimate in convenience. Products ordered from the catalog were available for pick-up at the airport you arrived at. You can imagine how relieved you would be to avoid checking a bag and then pick up a life-sized garden yeti (147 lbs.). Put that in your rental convertible and smoke it

Astonishing as it may seem, this original Skymall plan didn’t work out. Trying to keep inventory in lots of places at once was too costly. Trailers full of products were gathering dust at various service centers and Skymall was hemorrhaging money.

Now CEO, Worsley decided to reorganize and have manufacturers ship directly to customers. The result was immediate. Customers got necessary items like T-Rex dinosaur trophies and couture arm slings shipped to their homes and no one had to deal with extra items at the airport. It was a brilliant move and allowed Skymall to soar into profitable years.

Skymall is now seen by more than half a billion travelers per year. What’s more impressive is that with a customer base of only 650 million people, they are able to find someone to buy things like the Slumbersleeve. For the time being, Skymall looks to continue offering you 5-8 minutes of knee slapping entertainment during your flight and who knows, maybe you’ll actually find something you need.

By Patrick Hutchison