On Wednesday (30 November) night, hundreds of the off-premise industry gathered at the Sofitel Wentworth in Sydney for the annual Retail Drinks Australia Industry Awards.
Flagship retail award of Liquor Store of the Year was won by BWS’s Windradyne Bathurst store, while Large Format Liquor Store of the Year was picked up by Dan Murphy’s West End Sunshine. Good Pair Days triumphed in the Online Retailer of the Year category.
Shanais Marcus-Hogue, from Dan Murphy’s Tamworth location, took home the gong for Liquor Store Manager of the Year, while Liquor Store Owner of the Year was won by Matt Surman of Bottlemart Blackrock.
In a surprise twist, two Young Liquor Retailer of the Year Awards were handed out, going to Red Bottle Group’s Josh Towers, and Vintage Cellars Brighton’s Oliver Francis. Francis and Towers were revealed by Michael Waters, CEO of Retail Drinks, to be within a single point of one another at the conclusion of the judging process.
At the event, National Liquor News caught up with some of the winners to get a sense of their emotions. For Marcus-Hogue, it was a pay-off that came after a few attempts.
“I’m really delighted, I’ve applied for this a couple of times, and to finally get a win… Liquor is my career, it’s not something I’m going to walk away from. Liquor is really special to me,” the Liquor Store Manager of the Year said.
Francis, who was deemed joint Young Liquor Retailer of the Year, shared Marc-Hogue’s perspective.
“It’s a big honour – it really is great to be recognised by the industry for the hard work and the ideas,” Francis said.
“In terms of my career, it’s a great next step to go more into buying, and it will give me that really good base to bring all this experience with me to going into a bit more of a store support environment.
“I wouldn’t really be here with my team, they’ve been great. My area manager has been amazing as well as the leadership team above him – allowing me to take my ideas and run with them and give me all the support to help make VC amazing,” Francis continued.
Similarly, Towers was quick to praise the team at Red Bottle in his acceptance speech, saying: “The only reason I won this is because I took a lot of credit for that whole table’s worth of work.”
Bottlemart Blackrock’s Surman stressed the importance of working with the community to succeed in liquor retail.
“We always try to challenge ourselves. We’re lucky that we were set up in an area where we can sell premium products, I get enjoyment from recommending premium products, so we can play in that top-end area.
“But also, being with Bottlemart, you cater for as many markets as you can. And probably the other thing is, we stock what buyers want. So if a customer comes in or they ask for something, we try and source it for them,” Surman continues.
For Surman, nights like the Retail Drinks Awards provide an crucial target for the industry.
“They’re very important, they’re definitely encouraging you to get better, so it gives you a bit of recognition that you’re on the right track, doing good stuff,” he said.
“It’s also a chance to catch up with the industry people, and let our hair down.”
Later, BWS Windradyne Store Manager, Alissa Humphries, commented on her store’s triumph in the coveted Liquor Store of the Year category.
“We have won this award because we have a fantastic team in this store, who do an incredible job of creating memorable moments for our customers by delivering the BWS experience,” Humphries said.
Humphries is particularly pleased with the recognition, as the store is a relatively recent addition to the BWS family, having been purchased from D’Aquinos in November 2021.
“The entire team is pumped and buzzing after the win. It’s incredible to be recognised on a national level,” the Store Manager continued.
Scott Davidson, Managing Director of BWS, also expressed his pride at the location’s awards success.
“Our Windradyne store is renowned for its inspiration merchandising and displays and warm regional hospitality,” Davidson said.
“This is reflected in customer feedback that often quotes great range and very friendly customer service, and is a huge testament to Alissa and the entire team.”
Chairman praises the industry
Retail Drinks Chairman, John Carmody, introduced the awards, and hailed the quality and quantity of the nominees and finalists.
“After a huge 250 per cent uplift in nominations last year, it was incredible to see the nominations grow by a further 20 per cent this year across all categories, to over 400 in total,” Carmody said.
“It’s great to see as it demonstrates that members and the broader industry value and appreciate our annual awards program.”
Waters echoed Carmody’s sentiments, and pointed to the rigorous assessments that nominated liquor stores underwent.
“All member stores that are nominated were independently mystery shopped, assessing the complete customer experience against over 28 criteria. The average store mystery shopped, this year, the score was 79.8 per cent, a four per cent overall improvement on last year,” Waters explained.
“The top 50 finalists in Liquor Store of the Year achieved an average mystery shop of 91.2 per cent.”
Finally, Carmody thanked all those who attended, acclaiming the industry’s positive culture.
“One thing is for sure – the industry is at its best when we do get together. We shake hands. We drink with our left hands. We pat each other on the back, we clink glasses and we make new friends.
“Importantly, we celebrate just how great this industry is.”
A full list of winners can be found below:
- Liquor Store of the Year: BWS Windradyne Bathurst, NSW
- Large Format Liquor Store of the Year: Dan Murphy’s West End Sunshine, VIC
- Online Retailer of the Year: Good Pair Days
- Young Liquor Retailer of the Year: Oliver Francis, Vintage Cellars Brighton, VIC, and Josh Towers, Red Bottle Group, NSW
- Liquor Store Manager of the Year: Shanais Marcus-Hogue, Dan Murphy’s Tamworth, NSW
- Liquor Store Owner of the Year: Matt Surman, Bottlemart Blackrock Cellars, VIC
- Sales Representative of the Year: Alistair Harris, Pernod Ricard Australia
- Beer Supplier of the Year: Lion
- Wine Supplier of the Year: Treasury Wine Estates
- Spirits Supplier of the Year: Diageo Australia
- Services Partner of the Year: Australia Post
- Supplier of the Year: Diageo Australia