By Paul Wootton in Queenstown

The annual Liquor Marketing Group (LMG) conference has opened in Queenstown, New Zealand, with chairman Wayne Bayfield telling delegates the group had had a great year and insisting its critics were wrong.

In a rousing welcoming address, Bayfield said: "This is the only national independent group. It's also the largest independent group. When you're the biggest, others love to tell you that you're not doing things right. But we are doing things right, I can guarantee that. We are 100 per cent driving this group forward."

Independent Brands Australia (IBA) may have a much larger market share than LMG, but Bayfield told TheShout he does not consider IBA to be truly independent, as it is a subsidiary of Metcash. [continues below]

Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown

He said other independent banner groups that he would not name are actively seeking to "buy" new members, but that is something LMG would never do.

"The independents should stop criticising each other and focus on their business," Bayfield said. 

The last two years have seen considerable change at LMG, with the closure of its wholesaling arm HLW in 2012, the introduction of a leaner workforce and managing director Sean Hogan leaving the group in August this year.

But Bayfield is confident the new team that LMG CEO Doug Misener now heads up is "the best group of people" LMG has ever had. "I've never seen such a positive atmosphere within the group," he told delegates.

Networking by the bungy platform

More than 320 delegates from all over Australia are attending the conference, participating in business sessions, tastings and numerous activities such as bungy jumping and jet boating amid the spectacular New Zealand scenery.

"The next few days are going to be a lot of fun," Bayfield told delegates. "And we've got a couple of work sessions that are going to be top quality. Take the opportunity to catch up with suppliers and mix with the other publicans because you never know what you can learn and take back home with you."

There will be more from the LMG conference on TheShout next week.

The Shout Team

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

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