Throughout 2023, Paul Rajkovski, Manager of Melbourne’s D’amore Cellars Bottlemart, saw that the liquor industry was characterised by innovation and new product development, providing ample opportunities for growth.

Paul Rajkovski, Manager, D’amore Cellars

Rajkovski was introduced to the liquor industry at a young age, with his family owning and managing several pubs throughout the years.

“My earliest childhood memories are of growing up in the rooms above the pub and venturing down to the floor after close.

Eventually, the family’s focus moved away from pubs into retail liquor and grocery,” he said.

Rajkovski has found his home in the industry, identifying expanding his product knowledge as his current passion, alongside learning from other industry professionals.

“The relationships I’ve been able to build over the journey make working in the liquor industry even more enjoyable. The industry is littered with so many great people who share the same passions. I have been extremely lucky to have had some amazing mentors and make lifelong friends along the way,” he said.

It is these relationships that have allowed Rajkovski to develop as a retailer, and he advised both established and emerging retailers to do the same.

“There are so many people with a wealth of knowledge and experience in the industry, but it is also ever-evolving.

“Immerse yourself in the industry. Be open minded and allow yourself to enjoy everything it has to offer. One thing I can never be found guilty of as a retailer is being afraid to have a go,” he said.

This willingness to trial new and unique products sets D’amore Cellars apart from its competitors.

“Consumers are constantly on the hunt for something new and fresh. We are continually cycling in new product, meaning we are becoming more proactive in deleting slower moving SKUs a lot quicker,” Rajkovski said.

With this dynamic product mix, Rajkovski emphasised the importance of data to determine which categories need more space, and which are underperforming.

“As an LMG member I cannot speak highly enough of the support we are afforded in this area by the team. They are able to provide industry data, along with store specific data, assisting in making these decisions,” he said.

In the coming years, Rajkovski is looking to expand.

“The goal is to explore other retail opportunities in the not-too-distant future within the industry. With my children getting a little older, the vision is to open more stores,” he said.

Vying for shelf space

The introduction of new products in the RTD space has been both an opportunity and a challenge for retailers.

“With the explosion of NPD in all categories, especially RTDs and beer, fridge space is becoming a major challenge.

“The growth in light RTD has been phenomenal. Easy drinking products such as Hard Rated, Billson’s, Suntory -196, and Brookvale Union seem to be all the rage at the moment and don’t appear to be letting up. I feel suppliers will continue to introduce new NPD in line with the growth in this category, continuing to increase the challenges for retailers,” Rajkovski said.

This article originally appeared in the 2024 Leaders Forum issue of National Liquor News.

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