In the 2023 National Liquor News Industry Leaders Forum, Liquor Barons discusses how a corporate restructure has assisted the organisation in the past year.
2022 saw incredible positives for Western Australian co-operative, Liquor Barons, from a business performance point of view, according to General Manager Chris O’Brien.
“For top line sales numbers on a like for like basis, Liquor Barons has matched 2021. Given the post-COVID environment and booming nature of the year, I consider matching these results in 2022 to be an outstanding result,” O’Brien said.
Top line sales were one of three key indicators of success for Liquor Barons in 2022. Other indicators were positive performance achievements such as small incremental growth in the gross profits of members and rising foot traffic, seen in the increase of transactions across the group.
“On a like for like basis, the number of transactions in our stores has increased by approximately 2.5 per cent in 2022, versus 2021. This shows our marketing efforts are attracting more customers today than 12 months ago,” O’Brien said.
In 2022, Liquor Barons was also able to grow the number of stores in the co-operative, which has pushed absolute growth rates even higher than this solid collection of like for like
Throughout this co-operative of members, O’Brien has seen some new trends emerge in 2022.
“We’re seeing a once in a 25 year event – a really large number of existing independent liquor store owners are retiring or exiting the business. Consequently, we’re seeing a lot of new ownership en-masse,” O’Brien said.
“Predominantly these new owners are no longer middle aged men, they are young couples or families putting everything on the line to purchase a business. This new generation of independent liquor store owners has a different set of needs and requirements to the people they bought their stores from.”
Recognising this shift as a new generation emerged, Liquor Barons underwent a head office restructure in 2022 to make sure it was equipped to meet such changing needs of the co-operative.
“Some really hard decisions have been taken, but we find ourselves at the end of 2022 with a relatively new, entrepreneurial, energetic and youthful head office team. We’ve made significant changes to achieve that,” O’Brien said.
Mitigating the challenges of 2023
A number of challenges faced by most of the liquor industry in 2022 were tipped by O’Brien to continue into 2023, and will be a focus for the group this year accordingly. This includes the ability to attract and retain staff, which is particularly hard when competing with WA’s booming mining industry, and 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.
One focus for Liquor Barons when it comes to ensuring consistent supply for members is to opt for producers with manufacturing capabilities in WA.
“For a group like us that’s been so focused on local for so long, that’s actually a really positive thing because we have strong relationships with most local manufacturers and producers and therefore, we tend to get looked after by them when times are tight,” O’Brien said.
Another predicted disruption Liquor Barons has already been focused on addressing in 2023 is what O’Brien described as “the largest range of price rises in the liquor industry probably since the 1990s,” in February.
“Our immediate focus is to ensure relativity and to ensure margin maintenance in this high inflationary period,” he continued.
“We will also be continuing to drive an ever-increasing number of customers into member stores. We’ve over invested in both our digital marketing and traditional marketing capability and our focus will be to continue to use those channels with our refreshed team to drive customers into store.”