Retail Drinks Australia has dubbed 2022 a successful year at its annual general meeting (AGM), held in Sydney last week.

The AGM opened activity on a huge day of activity for the organisation, which also included the Retail Drinks Annual Industry Summit and Awards.

There were no resolutions at this year’s AGM regarding board placements, with all current directors having been appointed for a two-year term at the 2021 AGM. The focus for the AGM was instead on the great results of Retail Drinks in FY22, with CEO, Michael Waters, reflecting on some of the achievements of Retail Drinks since it began less than four years ago before looking forward to the year ahead.

Policy and advocacy achievements of the year

Speaking about policy and advocacy work, Waters said: “We’ve achieved a lot these past few years, and we continue to demonstrate the importance of our role.”

He detailed key wins of the year, both on federal and state levels. Some were continued efforts of previous years, such as helping advocate for liquor retail to be kept open as an essential service since the start of the pandemic. Other achievements sought to build on previous positive work, such as a formal review of the Retail Drinks Online Alcohol Sale & Delivery Code of Conduct, which saw several updates and additions to maintain best practice and help shape regulatory reform country-wide.

Also on a country-wide level were new initiatives, as Waters said: “We commissioned and commenced work on two new research projects, one on Availability and Harm and another on Online Alcohol Sale & Delivery. The Availability & Harm research will be finalised later this year, and the online project in early 2023.

“Following calls from members and industry stakeholders, we developed a new policy position on ‘the sale of non-alcohol products’, which was approved by the board in March 2022.”

On a state level, Retail Drinks was involved in numerous policy and advocacy activities. In Victoria, this included significant legislation changes to an Amendment Bill passed in November 2021. In this Bill, Waters said Retail Drinks assisted with: “the creation of a specific online licence category, preventing convenience stores from obtaining a liquor licence, and defining ‘local community’ as being within a five kilometre radius preventing ‘non-local’ stakeholders from getting involved in individual licence applications.”

In the NT, Retail Drinks successfully advocated for the government’s formal three-year MUP review to be an independent and transparent process, and was then invited by the government to participate in industry workshops as part of the review.

In NSW, Retail Drinks negotiated key changes to the government’s age verification requirements for same-day alcohol deliveries, and helped secure a four month extension on the payment deadline for liquor licence fees, as well as secure the allocation of 10,000 fee -free RSA Training courses.

Across to WA, and Waters described achievements in online alcohol sale and delivery regulations, which closely mirror the Retail Drinks own code, along with a six-month education period. He also noted positive collaboration with industry stakeholders to help in such areas like the removal the proof of vaccination mandate in WA liquor stores; the establishment of a two-hour extension to trading hours over the 2021 Christmas period; and licence fee waivers.

For SA and QLD, the wins were relating to recent Amendment Bills, where Retail Drinks successfully advocated for its members regarding liquor retailing activities for other licence categories. Then in the ACT it was reappointed to the government’s Liquor Advisory Board, for a further term as the representative for off-licences.

Member services developments

From a member services perspective, there were also many major achievements throughout FY22. This includes expanding the range of free health checks on offer with the new HR Health Check; new partnerships like with St John Ambulance for first aid training; and the expansion of existing partnerships and programs, such as the insurance program with Aon.

“Retail Drinks’ Business Insurance Program, run in partnership with Aon, achieved a 45 per cent growth in members, a 40 per cent growth in overall value of the Program, an 88 per cent conversion rate, a 97 per cent retention rate, a 20 per cent average saving on premiums, and 100 per cent approval of claims,” Waters said.

Other news from the member services front was around the development of new programs, guidelines and services to assist retailers run their stores more efficiently and responsibly. This includes the Product Ranging Guidelines launched in early 2022, and a pricing comparison service, which has seen incredible results.

“In early 2022 we commenced development of a bespoke Merchant Services ‘pricing comparison service’ to help liquor retailers reduce their ongoing merchant fees. Since launching in July 2022, the new service has helped identify average annual fee savings of 42 per cent ($4,244) and 29 per cent ($2,933) respectively, with the best and second-best alternate payment services provider,” Waters explained.

The year ahead

As Waters said at the AGM: “While Retail Drinks can be proud of its many achievements throughout FY22, we must not rest on our laurels – there is much work to be done.”

He listed some of the current regulatory priorities of Retail Drinks, from a policy and advocacy perspective, including:

  • The development of new Online Alcohol Sale & Delivery regulation and/or regulatory reviews in the ACT, QLD, NSW and WA.
  • Work in the online alcohol sale and delivery space, which is helping inform ongoing reviews being undertaken by the Federal Government into digital identity legislation, and the Privacy Act.
  • Liquor Act & Regulation, including liquor licence fee scheme reviews in NSW, VIC, the ACT and the NT.
  • Drug & Alcohol Strategy reviews in WA, TAS and Federally.

Other areas Retail Drinks will be watching for in the coming months include a review of the Container Deposit Scheme in SA and the formal adoption and roll-out of the Banned Drinkers Register in WA.

“As you can see there’s plenty to keep our small, but effective team busy over the coming months. We are continuing to demonstrate strong industry leadership and deliver value where it counts. We are expanding our member services and benefits. We are continuing to enhance industry responsibility, and we are working hard to share more of our industry and member stories and to promote the good,” Waters said.

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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