Retail Drinks Australia held its second ever Annual General Meeting (AGM) this week, celebrating the achievements of the past year and also looking to the future.

For Michael Waters, it may have been his first AGM as acting CEO but from his previous positions within the organisation, seeing these recent successes and planning to build from them has all been part of an incredible journey.

Waters told National Liquor News: “I’ve been honoured and privileged to have played an integral role in Retail Drinks’ journey since inception, having worked in various capacities with the organisation for over 11 years.

“I’m tremendously excited about the future of Retail Drinks and am grateful for the opportunity to lead the organisation into the next phase of its evolution. I’ve seen first-hand the incredibly dynamic nature of the retail liquor industry and the ability of retailers to constantly adopt to the changing preferences and trends of consumers, whether it be releasing new and exciting products in stores or the development of different platforms to expand their outreach to customers.”

These components of the industry are something that Waters and Retail Drinks are looking forward to showcasing again in their next Liquor Retail Summit, currently scheduled for May. This is just one thing on the agenda for the coming year, as part of a new strategic plan described at the AGM.

Some of the core priorities for the coming year as part of this plan includes making sure that members have what they need for the best possible success in their business, while maintaining the primary goals of Retail Drinks.

As Waters explained: “Retail Drinks is extremely cognisant of ensuring that all of our members are equipped with the resources and services they need to operate their businesses more sustainably and effectively. That’s why we will be looking to expand the wide range of member services that we currently have on offer as one of our core priorities.

“We also want to ensure that we are always enhancing the freedom to retail responsibly which is the overarching goal of Retail Drinks and guides everything that we do as a national industry association. In doing so, we want to draw attention to the positive stories coming out of industry and highlighting exceptional liquor retailers as we have done previously with the Retail Drinks Industry Awards Program.”

To meet these goals and priorities, Retail Drinks will be building from the foundation of previous success, expanding new and existing initiatives to benefit the industry. While the AGM recognised some of the great work of the past year, Waters said there is certainly no time to be complacent.

“We are very proud of all the things which Retail Drinks has been able to accomplish over the past year which have undoubtedly resulted in significant improvements to the retail operating environment for our Members and the retail liquor industry as a whole,” he said.

“Whilst we are proud of all these successes, we are also focussed on building further successes in the coming years and beyond, particularly as state and territory governments around the country embark on wide scale legislative reforms to their respective liquor laws.”

“As the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, it is critical for industry associations to be agile in their approach towards their advocacy with governments as situations can change rapidly and unexpectedly.

“Retail Drinks will continue to build its relationships with governments and regulators to ensure that we remain well-placed to represent the industry and be the voice for all liquor retailers. At the same time, we will also remain focussed on building our existing initiatives which have resonated with retailers to deliver the best possible value for a Retail Drinks membership.”

Both the history of advancements for the benefit of the industry and the future goals of the organisation are some of the good parts of having Retail Drinks membership, and Waters said they encourage all retailers to join, regardless of their size, experience or location.

“Retail Drinks is focussed on representing the entire retail liquor industry and playing the role of the industry’s voice with all Australian governments. We rely on the support of our members to be able to deliver positive policy outcomes for the industry,” Waters said.

“A perfect (and very recent) example that demonstrates the importance of the work we do was throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, in ensuring that liquor retail was classified as an ‘essential service’ as well as helping to save packaged liquor retailers over $8 million in annual licence fees this year.

“If you asked a liquor store owner back in March what they’d be willing to pay to ensure that their business was able to stay open and trade (responsibly and safely) through the pandemic, I’m sure it would be a lot more than a $400 or $500 annual membership fee. It’s a modest investment to help ensure that your national peak industry body is armed to nurture a stable political, social and commercial environment in which the retail liquor industry may grow sustainably.”

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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