In the annual banner group feature of the June issue of National Liquor News, Corey Leeson, General Manager of Independent Liquor Retailers (ILR), describes the group’s focus in 2021 and it commitment to members.
National Liquor News: How has ILR been faring in 2021 so far?
Corey Leeson: In a word, exceptional. The planets have aligned for our business as our retail liquor sales are exceeding our expectations and actually trending above industry averages. Being a retail liquor group with most members situated in regional NSW and QLD, we have seen growth across all categories. This is due to our members’ exceptional customer service, range and relationships. They continued to execute our promotions and not take their customers for granted which is seeing new customers come through the door and upselling of our existing customer base.
NLN: What was the biggest thing you learned from 2020?
CL: Take nothing for granted. Retail was lucky in the pandemic with increased sales. But our on-premise members were on the other end of the scale. We can’t rest on our laurels and need to always look at ways to improve and support members. Priority is to keep members profitable and keep customers coming back. Groups like us need to support all independent stores and provide more than just a marketing and promotional program to stay relevant. The focus at the moment is moving and adapting with the change in shopper behaviour and providing additional cost saving services for our members.
NLN: What are the biggest opportunities for ILR this year?
CL: Growing our digital presence to get our great deals in front of more consumers and tailoring our stores’ offers based on geographical location and localised drink choices. We want to put the local back in local liquor.
NLN: What are the key things you’re working on to support members?
CL: On top of expanding our online presence through e-commerce and digital advertising to increase sales, we are looking at providing other services and programs that help retailers reduce business costs and provide additional margin opportunities. This includes craft beer programs, premium wine and spirit offers, merchant services offers, improved private label ranging and time saving services such as product and promotion hosting.
NLN: What are the biggest strengths of ILR right now?
CL: Our members. Being a predominately regional member base and convenience retail service, our members are benefitting from people wanting to stay local and support local business. We are seeing growth in these regional towns due to people moving to country areas, holidaying in country towns and the breaking of the drought is finally putting money into our farmers’ pockets. All these factors are providing new customers, increased spending and increased volume.
NLN: What do you think the industry can do to better support banner groups?
CL: Come up with products and offers that provide a point of difference and better category margin opportunities. Allow independents to be independent and serve their community the way they need to. Move away from the one shoe fits all approach and provide flexible programs so stores can tailor to their local needs.
NLN: Anything else to add?
CL: ILR is a group that is for the members and the benefit of members. We treat all members equally and provide all our profits back to our members fairly. We don’t use other members’ money to buy business and spend on programs or infrastructure that doesn’t provide a benefit or uplift in sales. We are a true independent group that allows you to be the champion of your community.
Find this interview and the rest of the annual banner group feature in the June issue of National Liquor News.