By Andy Young

Western Australian banner group Liquor Barons has established a new banner group. Bucks Off already has six members and general manager Chris O’Brien is hopeful of further growth.

Speaking to TheShout at the ALSA Conference in Darwin, O’Brien says that Bucks Off came about through the need to offer retailers a different banner to Liquor Barons.

He said: “Liquor Barons has had an extraordinary amount of growth over the last three or four years and we now have a little more than 65 sites and we’re predominately metropolitan and only Western Australia. That success has been driven by differentiating our offer in the market place. So effectively becoming the premium independent focusing on premium wine at $15+ and particularly West Australian, craft beer and spirits. 

“Over the last year or so we’ve got to a point where some good stores that are good operators have approached us, but we know it won’t work because they are a convenience-based or beer and bourbon-based and our mix of specialised SKUs isn’t going to work in their store.

“So my conundrum and by extension that of our board became, ‘what do we do’ because we didn’t want to dilute our consumer position. Do we pretend it’s not happening and continue to bring these stores in, or do we say ‘really sorry, it’s not working, go find somewhere else’?

“Ultimately we created an opportunity to run a second consumer brand and make no mistake they are differentiated. Liquor Barons still maintains its premium independent positioning and Bucks Off gives us a capability to build a consumer-focused brand that’s very differentiated from Liquor Barons and is focused on the convenience space, particularly with an outstanding beer offer and premix offer. It carries a little more mainstream beers and a little less premium wine and a range of products and a promotional program that’s more in tune with a convenience offer.”

The new group launched around four weeks ago with five large hotel bottleshops under the banner. O’Brien added that a sixth hotel has joined the group and two more are expected to be on-board soon.

Although the current Bucks Off members are hotels, O’Brien told TheShout that the new banner is not exclusively for hotels.

He said: “When we set out to put this into play our expectation was that the majority of stores in the group will be hotels with drive-throughs, but that certainly doesn’t mean that if a standalone liquor store comes along and that’s the set of consumers they are selling to, that store won’t go into the group. So fundamentally this is convenience based, it’s drive-through liquor, it’s beer and bourbon stand-alone liquor stores. So predominately but not exclusively hotels.”

In terms of what membership offers, O’Brien added: “Anyone joining the banner group will enjoy the benefits, expertise and success of Liquor Barons in terms of its ability to market to a more focused group of consumers that are more suited to your demographic. There is a very strong margin story in the cooperative.

“For any retailer who chooses to join our cooperative Bucks Off is not a secondary banner. A Bucks Off member has the same full set of rights and obligations as a Liquor Barons member, there is no differentiation within our group. The only difference is the signage above the door.

“It is exciting, we think the time is right, we’ve thought long and hard about our expansion and we think that the future for us lies in this retail specialisation.”

O’Brien added that anyone interested in joining the new group can contact him directly or the Liquor Barons head office.

The Shout Team

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

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