It was a positive 2018 for Western Australia’s Liquor Barons, with the acquisition of new sites and members, a 26 per cent growth in retail sales from the previous year and a small increase in operating margin. And following the impact of the second year of the home advertising campaign, Chris O’Brien, General Manager of Liquor Barons, is optimistic for the year ahead.

“This has been the second year we have enjoyed brand exposure on this scale and we are very optimistic about our 2019 plans in this area. Our focus on fostering a collegiate, unified culture means we have an environment where 70 odd small business owners get on and actually support each other. The overall success of the group and its strong brand have contributed to the continued growth of our co-operative member numbers.”

O’Brien highlighted several categories that shone in 2018, including craft beer, craft gin, “quality and modern Chardonnays”, and international wine categories – particularly New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, and French Provencal rosé, while cider continued to drop. Looking ahead, he sees provenance as the key driving factor for drinks.

“Drinkers don’t just want to know what they’re drinking, they now have an increased interest in who made their drinks, and where they came from. This is ideal for our business model, as our staff have great product knowledge, are engaged, family-owned and operated, and they have an interest in passing on knowledge to customers in-store. We have seen a huge uplift in sales of products that fit this mould.”

The Highly Commended Banner Group of the Year at last year’s ALIAs (and having won four ALIAs in the last seven years) served O’Brien as recognition for Liquor Barons’ business model, innovation and commitment, and he believes that success is achievable through consistent focus on these things.

“For us, 2019 is not about re-inventing the wheel; we will consistently maintain our independent message and we will continue to focus on a superior level of customer service, in-depth product knowledge at a store level, a diverse and exciting range of product, and above all creating enjoyable shopping environments for our customers.”

Policy changes are afoot in WA, with minimum unit pricing and a Banned Drinker Register being discussed, and O’Brien is looking forward to working with Minister Paul Papalia, Minister for Tourism; Racing and Gaming; Small Business; Defence Issues; Citizenship and Multicultural Interests, to find a workable solution.

“We believe that while the intentions of the policy are good, it is a blunt instrument. We support the alternative Banned Drinker Register, being trialled in the Pilbara region of WA.”

With the new year already three months in, O’Brien wants to take advantage of the growing economic confidence in WA, as well as focus on a new marketing campaign.

“We are starting to experience a return to confidence when it comes to corporate hosting of celebration events, such as Christmas parties. It is essential that we not only cater to these events where we can, but that we make this a smooth and easy corporate decision. We are executing a dual-pronged targeted marketing campaign on both the digital and ‘out-of-home’ space. Coupled with an increased and highly engaged social media presence, we expect to be able to reach more people on more occasions.”

This article was written for the 2019 National Liquor News Annual Industry Leaders Forum published in February.

Deborah Jackson

Deb joined Intermedia in 2015 as Editor of National Liquor News and Deputy Editor of The Shout. Since then, she has also worked as the Editor of Beer & Brewer and the New Zealand title, World of Wine....

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