Laurie Hurley, or ‘Laurie the Larrikin’ as he’s more affectionately known, has celebrated 50 years in the liquor industry.
Hurley is somewhat of an industry icon and institution of the Western Australian liquor industry. His career has seen him spend 32 years in liquor retail and then the past 18 years as a wholesaler after founding Liquor Traders Australia.
He spent 23 years on the board of the Liquor Stores Association of Western Australia (LSA WA) and as Vice Chairman for a large portion of that time. And in 2019, he was inducted as a Life Member of the LSA WA.
National Liquor News caught up with Hurley to reflect on the highs and lows of his extraordinary career.
“It took me nine years of hard work, with long hours managing pubs and liquor stores, and building a reputation. In 1982, I was lucky to finally become an owner operator as I am today some 40 years later,” says Hurley.
“In 1982, I acquired joint ownership of three liquor stores with Murray McHenry who owned Perth’s iconic hotel ‘Steves’ in Nedlands and Jeff Dunstan who owned a liquor store in Mt Lawley.”
These five independent liquor stores then traded under the banner of McHenry, Dunstan & Hurley (MDH) and Hurley says that they “blitzed the Perth retail liquor market in the 1980s” until it was sold to a public company.
Reflecting on his time as a board member of the LSA WA, Hurley describes this as much like “playing a game of 50-over one day cricket, with plenty of action at the start and back end of the innings with little in between”.
“All I wanted to achieve as a board member was that the LSA WA would represent the independent trade only, and we achieved that, so I was very happy,” he says.
In 2005, after his long career in liquor retail, Hurley decided it was time for a change, so he acquired an empty warehouse that had a wholesale liquor license and developed Liquor Traders Australia as a distributor to act as an alternative to the bigger players in the market.
“What I love about the industry is the interaction between staff and customers and the ability to satisfy the wants and needs of that customer,” he says. “One of my pet sayings is ‘we only sell products that our customers want to buy’ – and it really is as simple as it sounds. If you know your products and you understand your customers’ requirements, then it’s game over.”
When asked if he has any advice for someone thinking about a career in the liquor industry, Hurley says that they should ask themselves the following three questions:
- Do I possess the personality to deal with a cross s section of customers?
- Am I prepared to work hours up to 9pm, or on Saturdays and Sundays?
- Would relationships suffer?
And when it comes to advice for liquor retailers specifically, he says it’s simple: “A well-stocked, brightly presented store backed up with friendly, knowledgeable staff is a minimum.
“You must cater for your local demographic when buying stock. Always greet your customers on arrival, and a happy smile goes a long way to making the customer feel wanted. Friendly service is the paramount.”
After 50-years in the industry, Hurley is constantly asked when he is going to retire. But to that, he says: “Why would I retire when my business and the industry itself gives me so much enjoyment?”
“Looking back at 32 years in retail and the last 18 years as a wholesale distributor has been an interesting and most enjoyable journey. I shall continue my journey,” he says.
Here is a gallery of pictures from Laurie Hurley’s celebration of 50-years in the business: