In the annual banner group feature of the June issue of National Liquor News, Paul Esposito, CEO of Independent Liquor Group (ILG), describes how the group and its members have overcome adversity this financial year.
National Liquor News: How has ILG been faring in 2021 so far?
Paul Esposito: The year 2020 challenged ILG in every aspect. The pandemic impacted 40 per cent of our membership which operates in the on-premise environment. To add to the pandemic, ILG also experienced a cyber attack which shutdown our systems. Luckily, due to the quick work from my team, we were able to minimise downtime to only a few days. Even with all this adversity, it has been a successful year for ILG, and suffice to say, we are on track for a record year in sales revenue, profit, and membership growth.
NLN: Reflecting on 2020, is there one thing that stands out to you?
PE: The warm and resilient nature of our members and ILG staff. We reference the cooperative as a family and we do our best to support each other. This was evident during the uncertainty around the pandemic and the cyber-attack. It was inspiring to witness members sending treats and goodies to the staff who were working around the clock during the cyber-attack. There were also members offering to help with delivery backlogs; such a genuine display of wholeness that we are indeed in this together. I am particularly proud of the support ILG provided our membership during 2020, giving them every opportunity to survive and safeguard their future.
NLN: What is the focus at ILG at the moment?
PE: We recently conducted an Exceptional General Meeting (EGM); where we asked the membership to consider special resolutions that are significant in the seamless operation of the business to help future proof the co-operative and our members. This was successfully ratified at the EGM, allowing ILG to purchase a warehouse in South East QLD to better service our growing membership. Along with the ownership of Erskine Park and Townsville warehouses, this provides security and efficiencies to all our members. The board and executive have also been working together on delivering strategies for growth and how we can further add value to our membership.
NLN: What are the biggest opportunities for ILG for the rest of this year?
PE: We will continue to support our members in driving traffic to their stores and/or their e-commerce platforms, by also providing them with tools and flexibility to retail for their local communities.
NLN: What are the key challenges that ILG is facing?
PE: The challenges independents are facing is the dominance of the supermarket chains as they chase market share. Unfortunately due to acquisitions we have lost some of our long serving regional members in NSW and a similar trend is occurring in QLD. The other issue is supplier engagement with online platforms or directly offering exclusives to consumers, bypassing the traditional retail stores.
NLN: What are the key things that you are working on to support your members?
PE: There are three areas we continue to focus on. One: We regularly review our offering and look for efficiencies to pass on to our members. Two: freight costs continue to be a major issue especially for our regional and QLD members. And three: the health and wellbeing of our members and staff. It is important to reignite our social events to bring back normality.
NLN: Anything else to add?
PE: I would like to thank the ILG membership for their ongoing support, and this also includes our supplier members. We are committed to ensure the success and longevity of independents in the liquor industry, empowering you with the strength and benefits of belonging to Australia’s largest member owned liquor cooperative. I invite you to join us as our members are the key to our success.
Find this interview and the rest of the annual banner group feature in the June issue of National Liquor News.