Gift tokens leave gritted-teeth gratitude behind

To judge from the number of electronic commerce start-ups in recent months, it would be easy to think that traditional retailing is in danger of being rendered obsolete by the cyberspace version. But two young internet entrepreneurs beg to differ.

Just as The Gap claims that its traditional clothing shops and the internet store benefit each other, Jonathan Grey and Dominic Hawes insist that their venture can use the internet to bolster the high street.

Tomorrow they launch the jauntily named Jomono.com to catch the pre-Christmas rush for gift vouchers. Only, rather than using the latest technology just to send out more of a present that has tended to be regarded as a last resort, they are seeking to make gift vouchers a great deal more attractive and personal.

As with many ideas of this sort, the origins of Jomono lie in a pub. A year ago Mr Grey was listening to a friend as he described the tortuous and expensive business of sending a pres-ent from the United States.

At the time, 27-year-old Mr Grey was in the process of changing jobs and was not looking to set up a business.

But his experience with internet companies in San Francisco convinced him that there was a potential business opportunity in his drinking companion's tale of woe.

Deciding that gift vouchers held the key, he set about researching the market and to his surprise discovered that nobody had yet cottoned on to his idea. He decided to act.

As a result, last spring he and Mr Hawes, an internet marketing consultant, set about developing their concept and raising the pounds 500,000 from business angels that they felt they needed to get going.

From the start they determined that Jomono, a made-up name deliberately chosen because it is not associated with shopping and therefore does not limit the company's founders to one area of business, would set out to change the perception of gift vouchers.

Mr Grey says Jomono is seeking to use the internet to do this in three key ways. First, it is working on the basis that the important thing is not which stores are accessible to the sender of the voucher but which are close to the recipient. Second, it is seeking to move vouchers away from the idea that they are more likely to be offered by mass brands than premium ones. Finally, it is changing the thought process, to get away from the idea that a voucher is necessarily a thoughtless or, as he and Mr Hawes put it, a duff gift.

Clearly, the first change is made possible by the communication possibilities of the internet. To back up the second, the founders point to the presence of such retailers and other service providers as HMV, Hamleys, Heals, the video chain Blockbuster, the Marriott International hotels group and the in-vogue Japanese restaurant group Yo! Sushi. They are tackling the third through enabling consumers to personalise messages and support their choice of gifts with information supplied by Jomono's news service.

Though Christmas is obviously a key time for such a venture, the founders can see its value throughout the year. Among the services they are offering are a date reminder service that points out to a subscriber, for example, that a mother's birthday is coming up, and a gift registry that enables a subscriber to nominate favourite outlets and enable friends and family to donate to it online.

The service begins tomorrow with nine well-known brand names, but Mr Grey and Mr Hawes are confident of attracting 25 by Christmas and they believe that more will sign up as they realise the benefits.

However, while Mr Grey and Mr Hawes are keen to attract many more retailers, restaurants and other service providers to their website, and are even looking to move into Europe in the near future, they are not prepared to carry even the biggest names if they do not believe in them. This is because, though the brands pay for their presence on the site, Jomono puts its own reputation on the line by recommending them.

The founders, who now have a team of six at the company base in Brixton, south London, are conscious that in the digital world reputation counts for so much that they must be trusted to deliver promptly - generally the next day.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

Guru Careers: In-House / Internal Recruiter

£25 - 28k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An In-house / Internal Recruiter is needed to...

Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea