Sainsbury's and Oddbins Ltd today unveil plans to drive the direct-to-consumer wine market with a powerful new 50:50 joint business venture, intended to launch early next year. A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed to create this joint venture, which will run alongside both retailers' existing businesses and operate under both the Sainsbury's and Oddbins brands.

The venture will offer an unrivalled, direct-to-consumer choice of over 3,000 premium wines in the £4 plus sector, most of which will be sold by the case. It is expected that the majority of the range will be new to both retailers' current offerings. Operating in the U.K. via both digital and traditional channels, the venture will seek to build on the interactive opportunities that exist from Sainsbury's joint venture with Carlton TV.

"This is a winning combination - unrivalled in the world of wine." Allan Cheesman, Director for Wine from Sainsbury's, says, "This proposed venture is another step forward in Sainsburys' e-commerce strategy. Sainsbury's has been a leader in establishing wine buying alongside food within the weekly shopping expedition for over thirty years. Our focus on quality, choice, convenience and customer service will be further enhanced by Oddbins' unique reputation among wine lovers as a provider of exciting and specialist wines. We are creating a venture with unparalleled appeal for consumers seeking to explore and experience with confidence the world of wine."

Richard Macadam, Managing Director at Oddbins, says, "Both Oddbins and Sainsbury's are leaders within their respective fields. This pioneering venture will allow us to go one step further, using all types of direct-to-consumer channels in order to enhance the shopping experience and benefits to our customers. What is unbeatable about this proposition is our ability to combine this visionary step forward in wine retailing with the strengths we both bring from the high-street - Sainsbury's focus on quality and choice and Oddbins' passion for the product, innovation and customer service. Buying direct will never be the same again."

Tony Rodriguez, Chief eBusiness Officer for The Seagram Spirits And Wine Group, whose global operations include Oddbins, adds, "New developments within 'direct' technology are opening up each day and direct-to-consumer offerings are set to become increasingly sophisticated and interactive. Seagram's investment in Transora.com, the global B2B e-marketplace for the food, beverage and consumer products industry, is an example of our own determination to impact the e-marketplace space. This latest venture will enable Oddbins and Sainsbury's - two highly respected household names - to maximize their commitment to their customers by using the very latest in innovation and technology."

Oddbins and Sainsbury's expect to launch this initiative in Spring 2001, subject to the execution of mutually acceptable definitive agreements. Further details about the proposition, its range and operations will be made available at that time.