By Shane Williams

Following a night in the Chilean capital with the best of the region’s wine, food, song and dance, 200 delegates knuckled down for work as the serious side of Independent Brands Australia’s (IBA) fourth annual conference kicked off in Santiago today.

Delegates were welcomed by ALM/IBA chief executive, Fergus Collins, who began with a recitation on IBA’s impressive growth history. IBA was incorporated in December 2004 with 85 Cellerbration stores and an annual turnover of $97 million. Today the banner group has more than 1400 outlets nationally with a turnover of $2.3 billion.

Fergus also spoke of the recent RTD tax hike, mirroring the feelings of many industry members by describing it as a tax grab.

“Well off course its a tax grab. How can the government say [the tax hike] will raise an extra $3 billion in taxes and use that to combat binge drinking?” Fergus asked. “That in itself says the tax will not stop people drinking RTDs.” He said sales of RTDs for the first two weeks of May were down 24 per cent compared to the same period last year — a figure analysts predict to settle at around 10 to 15 per cent once consumers adjust.

Other speakers included IBA NRB chairman, Jack Simic, who outlined a key initiative geared to increasing members’ profits through the introduction of ‘house brands’ and IBA Rewards — a compliance rebate system.

Simic was followed by IGA grocery board chairman, Mike Daly, who spoke of the importance of personal relationships in liquor retailing.

“The liquor industry is strongly built on relationships, even more so than others,” he said. “We need strong relations with our members, our customers and suppliers. Suppliers are key to our business, retailers need to turn a profit, the wholesalers need to get a return and the suppliers need to make money.

“IBA are brand builders unlike the chains who in my opinion are brand destroyers,” Daly said, referring to the chain stores’ policy of constant price erosion that he said would ultimately put them out of business.

Taking the stand after Simic was Barry Urquhart from Marketing Focus, who spoke of the need to add excitement to the shopping experience.

“Shopping is the third most enjoyable activity consumers do so make it fun. Add some flair, create events, celebrate ANZAC day or Australia day — have an event each month — be famous for something,” he suggested.

“If you’re not famous for something then you will only compete on price and you will not beat the chains on that. I’ve written two bestselling books; I tell you this not to sell more books but to have a point of difference — to be famous for something.”

The IBA conference will continue with more speakers, workshops and presentations next week, wrapping up on May 19.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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