Published 26 September 2013
The text read: “Finally found missing piece to jigsaw: have way to ship wine to UK at amazing price. Could change face of wine buying habits across UK!”
That was the text that woke my wife up a few months ago. A chance encounter with a guy called Armond at a bus stop led to me firing questions and ideas at him like a machine gun. It was 7am and my brain had gone from 0-30 in a split second. I’d found it! I’d finally found a way to bring wine into the UK in small volumes that was going to be affordable to the average wine enthusiast. It wasn’t going to threaten Tesco, but it could destroy the likes of Laithwaites!
In short, Armond told me about AnyVan. The concept is simple:
- You go onto the AnyVan website
- You broadcast what you want to move from A to B
- Transporters/shippers from across the globe bid for your business
- You choose which transporter/shipper to use
This could be anything from one box to the contents of a whole house. The beauty is that, if you only want to transport a small parcel (such as 6 bottles of wine), a van or lorry already making the journey could add your parcel to their existing cargo at no additional inconvenience – but still make some money – and you get your goods shipped at a great rate. Obviously my mind immediately switched to wine: could I import a single case of wine from Amelie in Bordeaux to London? If so, could I then make a system that allows everyone else in the UK to buy wine direct from vineyards and get them shipped to their door – taking only a tiny fee? If I could, then I could charge as little as 20p per bottle and revolutionize wine buying in the UK (and make a fortune at the same time).
It looked a good business model, giving UK wine-lovers an unlimited selection of wines to buy from any vineyard they liked. This is how it would work:
- The customer selects the vineyard they want wine from and gives us the delivery address
- We feed this info into the AnyVan system (either by an API or via a white-labelled AnyVan site)
- Couriers bid for the delivery
- We send the customer a quote for the wine (including taxes and duty, shipping, etc)
- The customer accepts or rejects the price
Over the next few weeks my idea fell apart.
Although Amelie’s amazing wines cost as little as €9,50 (around £8.15), I quickly found out that I’d need to pay Excise Duty (£1.90) per bottle. Unless I am bringing it in myself for personal consumption then this is a must. If someone else is caught with goods with unpaid duty, their entire cargo can be impounded. And VAT would also be payable (currently 20%).
There was some good news. Her Majesty’s Customs and Revenue said when “buying, ordering or sending goods to the UK from the EU for your own use” there is no Customs Duty payable. There is also no need to pay Import VAT. Unfortunately, for wines made outside the EU, all three charges (Customs Duty, Import VAT and Excise Duty) are payable. Also, the red tape surrounding paying Excise Duty is quite complex. It was certainly more complicated than I wanted to get involved in.
However, as I got to the end of my tether, I stumbled across Cellar Door. This London-based company started down the same path in June 2012 and is currently in beta for a small, closed group of users. They have 160 wines from 11 countries. I recognised some of the wines and, after a quick calculation, it was clear that margins are very small. The £5.99 added on for delivery is very low. So I ordered some. The communication from them about my delivery was good – I got to see its journey (via DHL’s website) as it made its way from France – and it arrived safe and sound.
It’s very exciting. I still think this is an excellent idea and one which could change the way many people buy their wines. Okay, it’s not for the mass market, but with a little bit of luck, Cellar Door could find itself revolutionising the way many of us wine-obsessives buy our wine.