THE government is selling off its much-vaunted online shopping portal for Manx firms.
The Department of Economic Development is advertising for expressions of interest for a new owner for www.shopiom.com
Chief officer Colin Kniveton said: ‘It was always the intention that the private sector would take this over at some stage.’
He said it was the right time to look for a private owner now that the initial £300,000 funding from the Marketing Initiative Fund had been spent.
The site was launched by the former Department of Trade and Industry in September 2009 and 127 retailers are signed up to it.
The advert says: ‘Although currently a non-income generating website, the potential exists to develop and expand the website into a significant player in the market.’
Mr Kniveton added: ‘It was never government’s intention to make money from the site. But there’s the potential as in any website of this nature for a private owner to take over and, through the selling of adverts on the site and other promotional offers, to generate income from it.
‘One would anticipate someone in the private sector would be very interested in doing that.’
He said although it did not generate income, the government had not lost money through it.
‘We knew at the outset what the costs would be and they were allocated to set up the site,’ said Mr Kniveton. ‘This was in response to significant demand from the private sector. We believe it has already generated significant online sales for the participants.
‘There are also wider economic benefits from the extra revenue that’s been generated. We are quite satisfied with the outcome of the exercise.’
The decision to award the contract to set up the website to off-island company Venda was criticised in Tynwald and by Manx e-commerce firms.
When asked whether a Manx owner of the site would be favoured, Mr Kniveton said: ‘When we look at the expressions of interest this will be one of the factors we will be looking at.’