Lastminute.com hopes that edible underwear will boost profits

Martha Lane Fox reckons that selling adult products will "raise a smile", but will it raise revenues too?
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor on

According to Wednesday's Financial Times, Lastminute.com has expanded its "staying in" pages, which will now allow users to order edible underwear, inflatable dolls and pornographic magazines. Company co-founder Martha Lane Fox explained that the move -- which she labelled "tongue in cheek" -- was an attempt to find new revenue streams. She told the FT that many people would be amused if they were sent a pair of fluffy handcuffs.

This diversification away from just selling cut-price holidays and tickets shows the pressure that Lastminute.com is under to reach a profit, something it has vowed to achieve by March 2002 for its UK operation. When it floated in March 2000 the company's shares were valued at 380p, and quickly rose as high as 532p, but the general downturn in the dot-com and tech sector has seen them fall to around 27p.

Back in February it announced that the growth in new users was slowing, leading to concerns that it might struggle to reach profitability. Lastminute has been concentrating on generating more income from its current users, with initiatives such as a tie-in with Thomas Cook. Company executives have also spoken of the importance of offering "breadth and depth of good service to users" -- something they would seem to have achieved with their new adult new products.

Such moves have backfired in the past, though. Yahoo! stopped selling porn on its shopping, auctions and classified ads sections in April after the relaunch of its adult section was swamped with complaints.

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