young liquor retail
Michael Waters and Tegan Clemow

The future of Australia’s off-premise liquor trade will depend on its young staff. Yet, retaining and training high quality employees can be a challenge for liquor retail businesses.

Retail Drinks Australia’s Young Liquor Retailer of the Year Award is one thing that ensures the industry’s finest young talent receives the recognition they deserve. Nevertheless, the off-premise can do more to support promising professionals from the start of their careers.

This was the topic of one session at the Bloody Big Drinks Summit. ‘Shaping the Future of Liquor Retail’ saw Retail Drinks Australia CEO, Michael Waters, join National Liquor News Editor Brydie Allen and three Young Liquor Retailer of the Year Award winners to discuss career paths within the industry.

The panel provided several key points on how the industry can improve the recruitment and career progression of young talent.

Celebrate the good things

One way to connect with jobseekers is to clearly outline the benefits of working in the drinks retail industry. During the panel, winners of the award said that they were attracted to the industry by its flexible working hours and adaptability.

The 2021 Young Liquor Retailer of the Year, Tegan Clemow (ACT Area Manager for Retail Liquor Specialists Group) said: “I think what’s kept me in [the industry] is the adaptability and the ever-changing aspect of it, it just amazes me.”

Clemow believes that drinks retail allows for great personal evolution, even if the essential principles of the business remain the same.

Sharni Wise-Fenton, the 2017 award winner and current Retail Operations Manager for Vantage Group in Tasmania, feels that the industry rewards those with a detail focused mind.

“There’s a lot of little things in retail liquor that get you results… I’m all about those one percentages,” she said.

Like Wise-Fenton, Monique Strand (2019 award winner and Store Manager at Dan Murphy’s Campbelltown) joined the industry whilst studying at university, and simply never left.

Strand described the connection she felt to drinks retail and said: “We sell such a fun product, so I never left because I absolutely loved what we did and I had so much passion behind the product.”

It’s clear that liquor retail businesses hold many drawcards for young people seeking a rewarding career, and it’s important that these are effectively communicated.

See the potential

Back in June, after winning the 2021 Young Liquor Retailer of the Year Award, Clemow told National Liquor News that she considers herself lucky that Shane Madden of the Retail Liquor Specialist Group saw her potential when she first applied for a job in the industry, despite her relative lack of liquor experience.

During The Bloody Big Drinks Summit, Clemow referred to the importance of this with new recruits, saying: “They have the potential to do great things, everyone has the potential to do that, and if they aren’t given the chance to do so, then we’re not doing great things as an industry.”

Clemow is living proof that the drinks retail business can secure stellar talent, so long as they are willing to see the promise and ability in applicants.

Showcase the range of career paths

In conversation with Waters, Wise-Fenton highlighted the challenges of professional recruitment in an industry that often has unfair reputation as being just for casual work.

“It’s one thing to be able identify our future leaders once they’re in the business, but the challenge is making people realise that there are several different career paths within retail liquor,” she said.

Wise-Fenton, who herself joined the industry whilst studying, continued: “The big chains, they have so many roles within their corporate teams, [it’s about] how what they studied at Uni can influence that, and how they can create career paths.

“It’s something that we all need to work on as an industry.”

Embrace change

During the panel discussion, Strand outlined how she sometimes struggled to be taken seriously as a young woman in leadership in the liquor retail business. Clemow concurred, outlining how fresh new ideas were occasionally difficult to communicate with people who had been in a position for a long time and therefore were a bit set in their ways.

In the last few years, change has become more fast-paced and constant than ever, and the businesses that embrace fresh ideas and the change that comes with them will be the best positioned for success and to attract the best new young talent.

Culture is key to foster a comfortable and inviting place to work, as Wise Fenton noted: “If you’ve got the right cultural foundation… then you’re set for success.”

Recognise talent

The Young Liquor Retailer of the Year Award is a great way for the industry to recognise and support the growth of exceptional young staff members, and has been since its conception back in 2015.

Waters described the award as “recognising and rewarding outstanding future liquor industry leaders.”

He added: “It promotes the diversity of viable career opportunities within our industry.”

The Award is open to retail staff with a minimum of 18 months’ experience, and a maximum age of 30 years. Winners are invited to sit on the Retail Drinks Board as an observer for a year – giving them precious access to the highest level of decision making.

Learn more about the journeys and insights of recent Young Liquor Retailer of the Year Award winners with an all access pass to The Bloody Big Drinks Summit.

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