By James Atkinson

Licensed importers were quick to criticise Michael Kollaras' defence of parallel importers, but some bottleshop owners have quietly backed the practice.

Nick Waterman, director of strategy and trading at wine and Champagne importer Samuel Smith & Sons, said parallel importers aren't around to pick up the pieces if there is any problem with the products once they are on Australian shores.

"We carry all the responsibility of being the custodian of the brand in the market, but if parallel stock arrives it often ends up back with us as well," he said.

"We track lot numbers, and some of the products that get returned to us haven't been sold by us."

Like Winestock's Paul Stenmark, he argued that the provenance of parallel imported stock is often questionable.

"When we managed to track the lot numbers down, they'd come from a wholesaler in Europe through somewhere in Belgium and then out to Australia, and the product was much older," he said.

Vanguard Luxury Brands' James France told TheShout that while he wouldn't single out Kollaras or any other parallel importer, he believes that the practice of parallel erodes the time and investment put into brands by their official importers. 

"In a sense it's stealing brand equity. It affects the licensed importers who have invested their time and money into building the brands in their portfolio. They lose business which ultimately could result in lost jobs," he said. 

But while no retailers contacted by TheShout wanted to go on the record to say it, several threw their support behind Kollaras in comments posted in response to this week's article.

"When I go overseas and see Australian wines selling cheaper than we can buy them from the wholesalers in Australia, I know that there is too much taxing and profits going on between the chain of companies that gets that bottle to my shelf," said one.

"Bring on parallel importers and I hope it helps the brands realise they can't hold bottleshops over a barrel."

Another said he is far better serviced by sales representatives of Kollaras Trading Company than those of the licensed importers.

"When I do see the big company reps, all they do is bag Kollaras and other parallels but then turn around and try to sell me the same stock at a higher cost," he said.

The Shout Team

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

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  1. If these responses are the best the brand owners can come up with, no wonder their businesses are under duress.

    Any stock I receive from Kollaras has all the correct import labeling on it, so why would I contact anyone but them as Nick Waterman suggests?

    And if Paul Stenmark claims that stock can go from a distributor in Belgium, shipped half way around the world to Australia, and still be competitive in the domestic market, what does that say about the price gouging of the local distributor?

    It’s pretty simple … if brand owners think that splurging money on corporate boxes and boozy lunches is ‘investing time and money into building the brands in their portfolio’ as James France wants us to believe then I’ll stick with suppliers like Kollaras who can actually help me compete with the majors.

  2. when the licensed importers are charging $5 to $15 per case more than the parallel imports,what choice do i have in purchasing me stock,as for no support what rubbish,if i have issues like out of dates the parallel supplier always takes care of it.

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