SkyMall's Plan: Coffee, Tea or Order Form?

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Taking greater advantage of its captive audience of air travelers is a priority of Christine Aguilera, new president of SkyMall catalog, the Phoenix-based subsidiary of Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc.


"Capturing the customer impulse," is how she described the aim. "We're working [on an] onboard order form program where the airlines will pick up order forms while in flight. We would like to roll it out next year -- in the first half of the year. We're still in discussions to implement it.


"The focus will be on getting more people to order while they are on the plane. The airlines earn a commission on every sale in the catalog, so the increase in sales will also benefit them. In terms of the marketing opportunity, it would be a great upside for business since we've printed and paid the cost of putting them on the planes."


SkyMall is distributed on every major domestic airline, with 97 percent of domestic passengers having access to it. The catalog is published four times annually. In non-holiday quarters it's about 172 pages. The holiday book, set for distribution Oct. 1, usually exceeds 230 pages.


"We are looking at some new technologies to improve cross-sell opportunities, and we're looking at price points," she said when asked about improving average order amount. "I don't think there will be a substantial increase in price points."


SkyMall also plans more online marketing with airline partners.


"One of our airline partners will launch ticket confirmation with an offer from SkyMall [included]," Aguilera said. "We're planning to launch it in the fourth quarter of this year." She would not reveal the partner, identifying it as "a major airline."


Don't expect significant changes in the catalog's look.


"We're always working hard to secure new merchants that want to gain exposure," she said. "We have about 230 active merchants currently in the book. The space in the catalog is somewhat limited.


"I think our niche has been products you can't get in the mass retail chains, and we'll stay true to our niche and work with catalogers who work with those products. [We] get a select group of other catalogers with their best products appearing in our book that are appropriate for travelers."


Aguilera replaced SkyMall's CEO and founder Robert M. Worsley. He is retiring, according to a company statement that also noted that Worsley and Gemstar-TV Guide "have reached an agreement that resolves all claims between them."


When Aguilera was asked to comment on the matter Oct. 24 -- the day she took over -- Gemstar-TV Guide International spokesman Whit Clay interrupted by saying, "We're not going into that."


According to Dow Jones, Worsley "retired after settling a lawsuit with Gemstar related to stock he was promised upon the acquisition." It also reported that, "According to the company's latest 10-Q filing ... Worsley filed suit against Gemstar on May 5 asserting a variety of claims relating to an acquisition of Gemstar stock when SkyMall was acquired."


Aguilera joined SkyMall in 1997 and has served as general counsel and chief financial officer. Before joining SkyMall, she was an attorney with Squires Sanders Dempsey in Phoenix and also was with PricewaterhouseCoopers. Worsley founded SkyMall in 1989. Gemstar-TV Guide acquired SkyMall in July 2001.


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