Brewers merge e-business platforms in search of profit

Drink manufacturers Coors Brewers and Bulmers are to merge their e-business divisions, a move that will create the largest online...

Drink manufacturers Coors Brewers and Bulmers are to merge their e-business divisions, a move that will create the largest online marketplace in the hospitality sector.

The merger of Pubserve into the Barbox e-marketplace will create a joint subscriber base of 10,000 outlets, which will be able to order food, drink and other supplies over the Web.

David Kassler, managing director for the newly-incorporated Barbox business, said the marketplace, which will launch in April, has two main targets - to sign up 8,000 new subscribers and to reach profitability, both within 12 months.

With the combined customer base of Coors Brewers and Bulmers at 170,000 companies in the hospitality sector as a whole, Kassler is sure that Barbox can achieve its targets.

"A lot of the hospitality sector works in an old-fashioned way, with managers making eight to 10 separate calls a week to suppliers," he said. "So there is obvious benefit in the one-stop shop approach. We also offer services such as accounting and stock control software, that a large retail chain would have but an independent could not afford."

Kassler was keen to highlight the differences between Barbox and public

e-marketplaces such as the Jupiter Exchange, a recent high-profile failure. "Barbox is the result of a merger of two successful e-businesses," he said. "This differentiates us from exchanges which are generally funded by 30 or 40 companies, often starting from scratch."

When companies merge the integration of conflicting technologies is often a problem, but Kassler said the new Barbox would be built on entirely new technology.

"The existing sites are built on different technologies, but the new marketplace will be built on a Microsoft .net platform," he said. "Anyone accessing either site will be forwarded to the new site which will be fully integrated within six weeks."

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