Have they got booze for you

Two Edinburgh entrepreneurs are hoping to do for beer, wine and spirits what Amazon did for books
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The Independent Online

"Men are lazy. They want beer, and fast," says James Oliver. "They are fed up of trailing around the supermarket with the missus on a Saturday morning, arguing over the shopping, when all they came for is a crate of beer."

"Men are lazy. They want beer, and fast," says James Oliver. "They are fed up of trailing around the supermarket with the missus on a Saturday morning, arguing over the shopping, when all they came for is a crate of beer."

Oliver is a director and co-founder of lastorders.com, an "online off-licence", which sells beer over the Internet and delivers it to your door.

Oliver and co-founder Ian Gardiner appear to have judged their market well. Lastorders has recorded more than a million page impressions since launching on 10 November and has started talks with potential partners in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. From today, it will offer a range of wines and spirits in addition to beer.

Last week, the Edinburgh-based company announced the acquisition of its only UK rival, beersdirect.com, which deals in rare and speciality beers. The acquisition, which is thought to have involved a six-figure sum, will further lastorders.com's plans to sell guest beers from around the world.

Gardiner, 28, former managing director of online news service Newsbase, and Oliver, 32, a modelling agent, came up with the idea for Lastorders over a pint in a pub. Inspired by the success of lastminute.com, a website offering 11th-hour deals on holidays, entertainment and gifts, they hit upon the notion of selling beer and other drinks over the Internet.

"We wanted a product that people would beat down the door to get at," says Gardiner. "The Internet is good at supply, and there is a potentially unlimited demand for beer. We have put the two together. We hope that lastorders.com will be to booze what Amazon.com is to books."

The site offers convenience of delivery at a cut price. "We are much cheaper than off-licences," says Gardiner. "A case of premium lager costs between £20 and £25 at an off-licence. But we'll sell it for around £18."

Delivery is also key. Customers simply go to the site, select from a range of products and receive their orders the next day, via Parcel Force. Future plans include a same-day delivery option, starting in London. "Eventually, we want people at work to be able to place an order from their desk as late as 4pm or 5pm and get their delivery that evening," says Gardiner.

It is easy to push your cybertrolley around Lastorders' selection of lagers, stouts, ales, alcopops and ciders. It is fun, too. By the end of the year, Oliver and Gardiner hope to make the site more interactive. Personal shop assistants, well-known models and celebrities, will help visitors around the store. Using the beersdirect.com database, they will then contact site users, via e-mail, with details of special offers and interesting calendar dates.

"If there's a footy match, some foxy bird that a lad has chosen as his personal assistant will e-mail him and remind him to get the beers in for the game," explains Oliver. "If he gets bored of her, he can just change her for a new model."

Pages for jokes, beer banter and competitions, ranging from online table football to cheap beer for a year, are also planned for the website.

So, if you're stocking up for Christmas and New Year's Eve, Lastorders might just help to reduce the stress and, if nothing else, it will save you lugging a crate of beer home under your arm.

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