Clickmango hopes fizzle

Joanna Lumley-fronted site will shut down 11 September
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

The ill-fated natural health Web site Clickmango.com, fronted by Joanna Lumley, has confirmed it will close up shop 11 September.

The site was one of the many high-profile e-commerce startups that appeared at the height of the UK's Internet funding boom early this year, but it announced just three months after launch that it had failed to secure the funding to keep going.

Clickmango made the decision to shut down after failing to clinch a £300,000 round of funding at the end of July. It appeared for a time that the company might be saved by "white knight" investors. However, the funding might not have come in time. Rather than risk being unable to pay staff or creditors, the site's co-founders decided to shut down.

"Time is the biggest issue. Rather than risk insolvency, we must now close the business to meet our contractual obligations to our creditors and to our staff," said clickmango co-founder Robert Norton in a prepared statement. We have had a great deal of support over recent months and it is extremely important that we honour our agreements."

The site has given its 18 staff 30 days' notice. Most staff will cease working Friday, 8 September, and a skeleton staff will continue working through the end of the month.

Despite its funding problems, the site says traffic is at 750,000 page impressions a week and annualised sales are improving 20 percent a week, with sales ahead of target.

What the company can't show, however, is profits -- and since this spring's downturn in Internet shares, investors have placed an increased emphasis on the ability to become solvent quickly.

Clickmango's biggest problem was its market position, according to industry observers: in an extremely competitive market, it didn't have the visibility or the long-term backing to make an impact on consumers. "Clickmango had the challenge of creating an entirely new brand," said analyst Rebecca Ulph of Forrester Research. "If you're thinking of health and beauty products, you'd probably think of Boots... if you're Boots you don't have to build your brand."

Consumers may also have had a problem understanding exactly what the site was about, Ulph said: "You can have Joanna Lumley doing as much as you want, but that doesn't mean people will understand your brand."

Other dot-coms that have logged off include URWired.com, adabra.com and the infamous boo.com. Even more established players, such as Freeserve (quote: FRE) and letsbuyit.com, have seen their market values tumble and found it more difficult to raise capital.

Clickmango co-founder Toby Rowland is the son of Tiny Rowland, one of the most colourful British entrepreneurs of the 70s and 80s, who had an infamous rivalry with Mohammed Al-Fayed and owned the Observer newspaper.

The site will stop taking orders 11 September and will be taken down as of midnight that night.

Why have dot-coms been folding? For the full story see ZDNet UK's roundup: Dot-com downturn -- where do companies go from here?

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