In the annual banner group feature of the June issue of National Liquor News, Chris O’Brien, General Manager of Liquor Barons, describes the opportunity for the group in a booming WA economy.
National Liquor News: How has Liquor Barons been faring so far in 2021?
Chris O’Brien: The short answer – significantly better than I had forecast. With the demise of the government stimulus I had forecast that our sales numbers would return to more 2019 levels but that hasn’t been the case. In fact, we’ve held this inflated level of sales through the first half of this year.
In our opinion, closed borders, both domestically and internationally, have really been the key driving force of more disposable income and therefore increased sales in the off premise liquor channel. We’re certainly reaping the financial benefit of this.
NLN: Looking back on 2020, what was one thing you learned that stands out?
CO: Be nimble, and focus on what you’re good at. For Liquor Barons at the moment, the focus is on making sure our legitimate local credentials are well known to the consumers, and to continually align our promotional activity and product range to maintain our authentic local positioning.
NLN: What are the biggest opportunities for Liquor Barons for the rest of the year?
CO: The biggest opportunity will be to capitalise on the booming West Australian economy… For us it’s about making sure that we continue to provide our members with every tool possible for them to get their share (and more) of these booming markets which are statewide, but are more emphasised in the regional areas at the moment.
NLN: What key issues is the WA liquor industry is facing right now?
CO: We continue to talk about problem drinking and working with our association and then local communities on the introduction and implementation of the Banned Drinkers Registers, as opposed to blanket bans in those regions, which is critical. We as an industry
need to be supportive of mechanisms to support that small portion of the population who struggle with alcohol.
NLN: Can you tell me about any key focus areas that you’re working on to support your members?
CO: We support members through our biggest strengths, and right now, our biggest strength is our consumer brand. We’ve invested a huge amount of money and resources into creating the Liquor Barons consumer brand in WA, and we’re now starting to reap the benefits of that. We know if we put a Liquor Barons banner above the door, it attracts customers in WA.
At a local level, we’re continuing to invest in the legitimate local theme. This is resonating well with the public and it drives more consumers in-store, and it drives foot traffic. We’ve seen this for a couple of years and that momentum continues to increase.
On top of this, we’re looking closely at our product selection, putting a real emphasis on differentiated, local and margin increasing products. And then also, we’re focused on encouraging return customers, through our reenergised, reimagined loyalty program, Barons Locals.
NLN: Is there anything that you think the industry can do to better support banner groups?
CO: I think it’s important that banner groups stand on their own two feet, and that they actually add value to the industry. And to do that, we need to be very objective about how we make decisions. I think Liquor Barons is doing that quite well at the moment.
Find this interview and the rest of the annual banner group feature in the June issue of National Liquor News.