Christmas.co.uk put up for sale

A UK entrepreneur hopes to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds through the domain name sale, but retailers may not profit from it this year

A British businessman is hoping to raise a six-figure sum by selling www.christmas.co.uk .

Stephen Bottomley announced this week that he is prepared to sell the domain, which he bought in 1998. He has set a reserve price of £100,000, but is hoping to raise more.

Bottomley, who sells a range of services based around Santa Claus, told The Times that he believes the domain would be very valuable to a UK retail chain.

"I don't want to name names, but it has to be a major retailer," Bottomley said. "I think the cachet and kudos of having Christmas.co.uk on TV ads and carrier bags for the fourth quarter would be tremendous."

"It really is an opportunity for a retailer to become a major stakeholder in Christmas on the Web in the UK. You're talking a six-figure sum but they have got it forever — just consider the marketing budget of some of these companies," Bottomley added.

However, any company that prised the domain from Bottomley's grip today would struggle to get much value from it this year, according to one expert.

"Establishing yourself as a successful online retailer requires more than a generic domain name such as Christmas.co.uk," said Chandran Honour, director of Altrunet, an e-business Web consultancy.

"A professional appealing site with relevant, accessible content is needed along with a targeted marketing plan including search engines, email and affiliate programmes. Success requires a sound business plan and investment in time, effort and energy, over a period of months, not weeks, before Christmas," Honour added.

In the heady days of the dot-com boom, some generic domain names changed hands for huge amounts of money. Match.com was sold for $8 million (£4.65m today) in 1997, and business.com changed hands for $7.5m in 1999.

In today's more sober environment, it's hard to know how much Christmas.co.uk could be valued at.

"Domain names aren't like antiques. You can't say 'look, this is what a Queen Anne sideboard sold for recently'," said Rodger Armstrong, sales and marketing director of NetNames, which offers domain name management services.

According to Armstrong, the market in generic domain names has been "ticking upwards of late". He cited the sale of vip.com for $1.4m earlier this year as proof that people are prepared to spend serious money if they believe a domain name is worth it.

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