Chris Baddock has officially taken over as CEO at Australian Liquor Marketers (ALM) after being announced as Scott Marshall’s successor back in October last year.

Baddock is a well credentialed executive with more than 25 years of experience, many of those in liquor, with a background on both the supplier and retailer sides.

For its September issue, National Liquor News caught up with Baddock to find out a bit more about his background and what his plans are for ALM moving forward.

NLN: Chris, congratulations on your appointment. Could you tell us a little bit about your background and how it will benefit you in your new role?

I’ve had 17 years in liquor, both as a supplier with Lion in beer and spirits, and looking after the independents, chains, and national operators.

With Lion I also moved across to Fine Wine Partners where I was General Manager for three years. That was my first GM role and it was a great opportunity to run a business with the backing of a company like Lion.

I also spent seven years on the Lion executive team, so that was the beer, spirits and wine executive team, and that was some good, early cross-functional experience.

It was five years ago that I moved to Endeavour Drinks Group (EDG), which of course in those days was Woolworths Liquor. Woolworths is obviously an accomplished retailer, so in those five years I learnt a huge amount. During that time, I was running Pinnacle, which is the owned and exclusive brand business. It also included Cellarmasters, New Zealand Wine Society, their export business, into China and around the world.

I even had a stint in the digital technology team, which reported to me. I’ll never say that I ran it, they just reported to me, but this team was responsible for building and maintaining EDG’s digital businesses, including Dan Murphy’s and BWS. I was also lucky enough to sit on the group executive team at Woolworths, which was a broader team across all retail groups, so I got a lot of learning out of that as well.

So, to answer the question in one sentence, to have senior leadership roles in both retail and supplier gives me the unique opportunity to bring broad perspective to the role so that we can support the retail partners.

NLN: What will be your key focus for the next 12 months?

At four weeks in I’m still well and truly in a ‘seek to understand’ mode. But the key focus for me is to really embrace and mobilise purpose, passion, and partnership. What I’ve learnt is that our core purpose of championing successful independents really helps me to get up, and get out of bed every day with passion.

To know that that purpose is supporting locals serving locals, and therefore helping build small businesses and the communities they operate in, I am taking the attitude that being independent is a true competitive advantage. And we’ve got to embrace and celebrate that. We can only do that through partnership with suppliers and retailers. So strategically, any strategy that we put in place I am always going to check it against our purpose of championing successful independents.

NLN: Can you tell me a bit about ALM’s partnership with Complexica and how that’s progressing?

It’s exciting. We’re in phase one, and phase one is going to ensure that we optimise the promotional programming for our retailers. What it’s really doing is focusing on what the consumers are purchasing today, that will help us understand what’s emerging regarding categories. And through literally hundreds of thousands of lines of data, understand what the correct mix is for both the consumer and the retailer. So, it’s giving us the optimal mix and we’ve already scoped phase two and three. That is where artificial intelligence (AI) will help us build even more effective promotional programming.

NLN: What will that programming look like across your IBA network?

There will be slight changes in the promotional programming between banners as we move forward. We’ve got Porter’s, which is a premium wine focused banner, so of course, the data that it’s receiving, will make sure that it’s focused towards that kind of consumer.

It will also look at the adjacencies in regards to baskets, for example, the person who buys Riesling might also buy a certain type of whiskey – so I don’t know what that example would look like but that’s the kind of information that AI can bring to the fore. It’s tied into consumers based on what their purchasing habits have been, and when consumers allow you to take their data what they expect is that you use it to give them the best proposals for that individual.

As we build digital platforms and loyalty, which is going to be a focus into the future, we need to make sure that you’ve got AI helping you. It’s very difficult these days to put consumers into broad segments, because as a consumer in that one moment you’re in a segment of your own. That’s what technology helps us do.

NLN: Shoppers seem to be moving away from mainstream brands and looking for more a personalised offering. What are your thoughts on that?

I certainly believe that the consumers’ repertoire is growing. Some would call it repertoire, and some would say that consumers are being more promiscuous. But I would say that 10 or 15 years ago, we segmented consumers into broad segments, and it might have been half a million consumers in a segment – but trying to do that today is dangerous.

You must understand the consumer as an individual, and having personalised offers is probably something that is an answer to the previous question. But I think it does roll into understanding the consumer – where they’re shopping and why they are shopping.

Who would have thought five years ago that gin and pink gin was going to be growing at double digits? Who would have thought that you’d have a full bay of rosé 10 years ago? The consumer is changing, their habits are changing, and you need to keep up with those.

Regarding private label, I really do believe that there is a well-worn formula that the consumer needs, and that is that the quality is superior and it’s at a great price. I think that’s where own brands come to their fore. We certainly have a private label strategy, I want to make sure that we drive that strategy, and we need to do that with support from retailers but also very much support from the suppliers – using their expertise, their brands and their equipment to be able to bring to life private label and exclusive.

That’s why I say suppliers are so important, I think that the independents have a true unique competitive advantage and they can take advantage of the private label business. Why? Because they can pick and choose which areas in their individual store needs owned and exclusive brands. It also creates more loyalty in the store.

When a retailer has got something that nobody else has, it creates a destination for the consumer – that can be done with private label, it can be done with exclusives. But it can also be done with ranging locally in the store. And I think that is a unique competitive advantage for the independents, that they can go and do that without a head office coming over the top of them. And I want to take advantage of that. We’re so excited by it that on Monday, we’ve got a new employee starting in private label, and he will be an individual who will be focused on the portfolio; what we’re missing, what we need, and work with the retailers to bring more exclusives and own brands to life.

NLN: Talking about categories, at last year’s IBA Conference, the wine category was highlighted as the biggest value growth proposition for retailers. What is your strategy for continued growth in this area?

It’s very much about locals and building a core range of products using the competitive advantage of the independent retailer, to have local products or a range that targets their store. Again, I keep on saying that being independent is a competitive advantage, but I truly believe it, because when you’re standing behind the counter and you’re the owner of the store, you really get to know your customers, and you do that over weeks, months and years. So again, using the competitive advantage that the independents bring; local ranging, localised service, and locals serving locals and supporting their communities, is what we’re really focusing on.

NLN: What do you foresee will be the biggest challenges in your new role?

That’s easy – focus. There are so many opportunities that we could pursue, and of course you can’t do it all. We must start with the purpose of championing successful independents, and then get the team and our supplier partners to always keep that front of mind. There’s no end of advice in a role like this, we just need to make sure that we are focused on delivering what the consumer wants through the independent retailer.

NLN: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just that purpose is core to engaging people. Having this builds meaning into an individual’s work day. In my view, we have an amazing opportunity to truly fight for independents, as we believe that independence is worth fighting for.

The IBA Conference takes place on the Gold Coast this week, and TheShout and NLN Journalist Brydie Allen will bring you all the news from there.

This interview was published in the September issue of National Liquor News.

Deborah Jackson

Deb joined Intermedia in 2015 as Editor of National Liquor News and Deputy Editor of The Shout. Since then, she has also worked as the Editor of Beer & Brewer and the New Zealand title, World of Wine....

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