Having delivered a robust performance in 2023, the coming year presents significant opportunities for Independent Liquor Retailers (ILR). Under the leadership of new CEO Anthony Abdallah, the group reported strong sales last year and drove profitability for members.

“My first year as CEO for ILR has been enlightening,” says Abdallah. “The business, supported by a passionate and member-focused team, has delivered outstanding benefits to members at a comparatively low cost. Our members’ dedication to local offerings and servicing consumer needs stands out.

“[In 2023] we welcomed several new greenfield sites and retailers to our growing membership.”

And despite the slowing down of retail sales, Abdallah says ILR was well equipped to navigate rising price inflation and cost-of-living pressures.

“Recently, our members have seen profit margins rise above pre-Covid levels, thanks to sales growth and retail price inflation surpassing cost increases. However, this trend is reversing, with costs now outpacing sales growth. Retail wages are at a 10 year high. The immediate challenge is managing gross margins amidst rising operating costs while keeping our offers competitive.

“ILR supports our members by collaborating with suppliers across all categories, ensuring competitiveness and profitability. We’re enhancing our promotional program to grow sales and basket sizes. Our focus includes store promotions, core ranging, premium, and beer programs, along with updating our private label program to accommodate customers trading down.”

Trend forecasting

Driven by technological advancements, convenience, and evolving consumer preferences, Abdallah says the world of liquor retail is undergoing a remarkable transformation, observing the rise of e-commerce and online sales as a key trend.

“The convenience of digital shopping has significantly altered consumer behaviour. This trend underscores the importance for retailers like us to consider enhancing our online presence to meet growing demand for convenience.”

Category-wise, Abdallah has seen a surge in interest in craft and local products.

“Consumers are increasingly gravitating towards unique, artisanal spirits, highlighting a broader trend towards distinct flavours and support for local communities. This shift suggests an opportunity for retailers to diversify their inventory with such products, thereby supporting small-scale producers.

“The health and wellness trend is also reshaping our industry,” he added. “The growing demand for no- and low-alcohol (NoLo) alternatives is a clear indicator of a consumer segment that values moderation. This trend is an opportunity for retailers to expand their offerings in this category.

“The rise of NoLo drinks is a trend that can’t be ignored, especially with Millennials and Gen Z leading the way.

“Market diversification is more important than ever. The blurring lines between traditional beverage categories suggest that retailers need to adapt their offerings to encompass a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic options.”

Looking ahead

“The year 2024 is set to bring dynamic change and growth in the liquor retail industry,” says Abdallah.

“Our approach is to closely monitor trends, understand evolving consumer preferences, and consider leveraging technology to enhance customer experience. We’re not just a chain of liquor stores, we’re part of an industry that’s a hub for discovery, quality, and innovation.

“Here’s to a dynamic and prosperous year ahead in the world of liquor retail.”

This article originally appeared in the 2024 Leaders Forum 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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