Inside an ILG warehouse

In the 2023 National Liquor News Industry Leaders Forum, Paul Esposito, CEO of ILG, discusses the co-operative’s growth in all areas during 2022, which he is optimistic will continue in 2023.

When reflecting on how Independent Liquor Group (ILG) fared in 2022, CEO Paul Esposito said it was another great year from all angles.

“The past 12 months have been rewarding for everyone associated with ILG. We delivered a strong financial outcome for all members, record sales in value and volume, and continued to grow our membership in all states, welcoming over 510 new members to ILG,” he said.

Some of the major successes of 2022 include the learnings that the co-operative has made throughout the year as it sought to navigate the unique post-pandemic environment. This progress helped contribute to a number of key wins for the business and its members.

“Looking back on 2022, it was a challenging year for the industry as a whole with plenty of learning and growth. I am proud of everything we have achieved as a co-operative, led by my team at ILG,” Esposito said.

“We managed to keep members’ delivery service levels above 97 per cent in all states – this was and still is a huge accomplishment.

“We now have a total of 25 active Fleet Street stores with more to come. Sales revenue for our retail banners YTD November are up 29 per cent and we are welcoming more Victorian members to our family.

“The biggest reward is the recognition we continually receive from our members and believe they have a voice.”

Priorities of the next 12 months

Esposito said the immediate focuses for ILG in 2023 will be growth oriented, aiming to deliver the best for the co-operative.

“The main priorities for ILG are growth in sales, member growth and retention and member benefits,” he told National Liquor News.

“We are also in the early stages of finalising a warehouse acquisition for our Queensland members and the ERP implementation. Another area we will continue to focus on is our culture and our people internally and externally to continue to inspire loyalty and success.”

Of course, ILG has predicted there will be challenges along the way, driven by increasing cost of living pressures, rising interest rates, supply issues, freight and fuel levies, and general price increases across the board. Despite this, Esposito believes ILG members will persevere with the support of the business behind them.

“I don’t have a crystal ball, but I am optimistic we will perform just as well as last year… I expect everyone will take a cautious approach in early 2023 with a more relaxed approach in the back half of the year,” he said.

“Our purpose as a co-operative is different than an investor-owned model and to date we have resisted passing on the [rising charges] to our members. We need to maintain our service level and ensure that our members get stock they order in a timely manner.”

This is also described as one of the key advantages of being part of a co-operative like ILG, with the main purpose of the business being to provide goods and services on an equitable basis.

“ILG is Australia’s largest member-owned liquor cooperative, and it gives independent retailers the ability to compete effectively through better buying power. We can achieve better buying power with membership growth and scale and in return our profits are returned to our members not shareholders,” Esposito said.

“Our purpose is to safeguard independent retailing and give them the ability to operate autonomously to ensure longevity.”

Find more from the 2023 National Liquor News Industry Leaders Forum here.

Brydie Allen

Brydie Allen is the Editor of National Liquor News. She has been with Food and Beverage Media since 2019, when she joined the company as a journalist across National Liquor News, Bars & Clubs, The...

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