In the June issue of National Liquor NewsChris O’Brien, General Manager of Liquor Barons, provided an update on the group’s performance in the first quarter of this year and its plans for the future.

Q: How has your performance been in the first quarter of this year?

Sales and transaction count for the first quarter of this year have both grown on our 2022 and 2021 figures. Given that this quarter we’ve navigated the largest CPI increase seen since the 80s, exceeding last year’s sales figures is an outstanding result. With sales at three per cent above last year, our margin has also grown both in value and percentage points, increasing profitability for our co-operative members. These numbers reflect our customers are remaining loyal in this difficult economic environment.

We’ve seen our store count increase and I don’t see it stopping any time soon. This year alone we’ve had five new stores join our group in the first quarter, with a sixth store planning to open its doors in June 2023. Our focus is not only on increasing our footprint, but on recruiting members that are the right fit.

Q: The Legit Locals campaign was very successful, what’s next for your marketing?

Liquor Barons’ Legit Locals campaign ended in January 2022 and as restrictions eased and our market changed, we went in a new direction for our 2022-23 summer campaign. The campaign ‘Wines, Beers & Independent Spirit’ was born out of communicating our unique selling proposition in a different way to our previous Legit Locals brand campaign.

As WA’s only 100 per cent locally owned and operated independent liquor co-operative with over 60 stores and counting, ‘Independent Spirit’ was and still is at the very core of the Liquor Barons brand. The challenge was communicating what the benefits of being an independent liquor retailer are to our consumer – that we’re not part of any national chain and their cookie cutter offering! The new campaign was a fresh take on showcasing this point of difference to our local WA community.

Q: How are you managing staffing issues?

Having seen a spike in younger members joining the group in 2022, the co-operative was met with a hard decision to restructure the head office team to meet the needs of the growing group. Liquor Barons underwent the restructure in the last quarter of 2022 to make sure we were equipped to meet the changing needs of our co-operative. We were successful in recruiting a new, entrepreneurial, and energetic head office team to complement our established and experienced employees. Combined, they are kicking goals for the co-operative’s members. We are investing in training and other initiatives to develop their skillsets further to continue to be ahead of the curve and best-in-class in the industry.

Q: How are you helping your members amid economic challenges?

We’ve seen in our sales data that transactions are starting to reduce marginally after the first quarter, however we are growing sales value and we are doing this while successfully hitting required margins. This is because of how we strategically develop ranging and promotional activity for our members and uphold strong relationships in our close supplier network. There is also a lot of focus on managing the logistics of a strained supply chain, not just with globally sourced stock, but the more than 80 per cent of stock which comes to WA from the east coast.

Q: How has Liquor Barons enhanced its capabilities?

Our team is well positioned to navigate the market changes that lie ahead and with great change comes great opportunity. As part of the restructure in 2022, we brought creative talent in-house. Our marketing team is more nimble than ever before and we are being recognised industry-wide for the calibre of what we are delivering. Our in-house capabilities also extend to providing one-on-one support to our members on any of their own marketing endeavours they wish to pursue which means our members have a marketing support network at their fingertips.

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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