In the June issue of National Liquor News, Paul Esposito, CEO of Independent Liquor Group (ILG), talks about the exciting plans of the cooperative and what this will mean for members.
National Liquor News: How has ILG been faring in 2022 so far?
Paul Esposito: Our members are on track for another record year, with ILG sales revenue set to hit $418M. Happily, ILG is still experiencing membership growth in all states with our Fleet Street banner soon to hit a milestone of 20 stores in both NSW and QLD. Our other banners, Bottler and Supercellars, have maintained momentum with significant growth in sales revenue and membership in NSW, QLD and Victoria. In summary, we are on track to achieve all the goals we have set with member benefits and returns increasing.
NLN: What are the biggest opportunities and challenges for ILG for the rest of this year?
PE: The biggest challenge we face is the continual disruptions to supply chain and the impact it is having on cost of goods and freight. Another challenge we are experiencing is the loss of members due to acquisitions by the chains and other groups. On the flipside, sometimes these acquisitions work in our favour. Our biggest opportunity is our wholesale business to non-bannered members. We have restructured our product and pricing offering, which gives our on-premise, restaurants, caterers better buying prices and services.
NLN: What are the key things you are working on to support your members at the moment?
PE: We are working on numerous projects to help support the membership. In QLD, we will purchase a new modern warehouse, to better service our QLD and Northern NSW members and provide consistency in all three sites. We have significantly increased our investment in e-commerce and digital to drive traffic flow to our member stores. Our complimentary business development training workshops recommenced this month after two years due to COVID, designed to put current business practices under the microscope and develop practical and long-lasting changes to any manager’s suite of skills, which is vital in a business environment where flexibility is the key.
We have some other exciting initiatives in the pipeline too. We are in the process of launching Liquorstop Warehouse in late June, and my IT team has been working on new member portals for a simplified ordering process and better visibility on inventory.
NLN: What are the biggest strengths of ILG right now?
PE: During Christmas and Easter, we managed to keep delivery service levels to the members above 98 per cent with minimal disruptions. Even with all the supply chain issues, our service levels are still at these levels. This is a great achievement in the current environment.
NLN: What can suppliers be doing to better support banner groups right now?
PE: We’ve always valued our relationship with our suppliers. Unfortunately, some suppliers (not all), can’t resist the temptation of ‘dumping’ stock into larger non-wholesale groups, giving them the ability to sub wholesale. Competition is good, however all we ask for is a level playing field to allow our members the same buying opportunities.
NLN: Anything else to add?
PE: ILG is built on its members, not investors, shareholders or speculators. The purpose of ILG is to provide goods and services to its members. We aim to operate more efficiently than our ‘for profit’ competitors because we don’t need to reward investors. We are equitable because we reward members who engage with ILG, rather than rewarding investor shareholding. Our goal moving forward is to recruit more members so that we can increase our influence in the marketplace. We aim to lower our distribution costs, provide better pricing and share the benefits with members.
Find this interview and the rest of the annual banner group feature in the June issue of National Liquor News.