Saying your days are numbered can be of benefit

Toby Rowland, co-founder of troubled e-tailer recently opined in this column about the need for dot-coms to focus on their niche audiences and avoid extravagant and wasteful ad campaigns (MW July 13).

Within a matter of days of the column appearing, rumours emerged about Clickmango’s own cash burn rate, and by the end of July the company admitted it was down to its last few chips at the dot-com roulette table. Obituaries were written by the same journalists who had previously given such generous publicity to the Joanna Lumley-fronted health and beauty site.

Rowland and co-founder Robert Norton fed the media machine by saying the company would officially go out of business by the end of August. But this week they announced a reprieve until September.

As well as flexible suppliers and loyal staff, “customers of Clickmango have also supported the company over the past week. In addition to messages of support, the company has seen site traffic quadruple and an increase in sales of 20 per cent.”

This back-from-the-dead manoeuvre is becoming standard fare in the new economy. Online news service Netimperative did the same thing a month or so ago, and now claims to be in the best of health.

One can’t help wondering if this is a kind of “guerilla marketing” to which increasingly cash-strapped dot-coms are resorting. After all, a 20 per cent sales increase – if true – is not to be sniffed at. The threat of receivership appeared to do more for Clickmango than any amount of stardust from the lovely Lumley.

But there is one aspect of this latest dot-com soap opera which has yet to be tapped as another source of free publicity. Toby Rowland is the son of the late Tiny Rowland, famous for his failed takeover of Harrods and his long-running feud with Mohamed Al Fayed.

Rowland Junior could presumably make very good use of just a tiny proportion of this old economy fortune in his brave new economy venture. Yet it transpires that neither he nor co-founder Robert Norton has invested a single penny in their beloved Clickmango.

Rowland’s reasoning? “Supporting a company in the Internet industry is a high risk investment and as such is a job for a professional investor who can balance the risk against multiple sectors. This is not really a place for private investment.”

How very prudent.

Robert Dwek is editor of e-volve

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