By Deborah Jackson, Editor, National Liquor News

The 2017 Australian Liquor Stores Association (ALSA) Study Tour group has returned to Sydney, after a successful trip looking at the London retail market.

The group of 14 retailers and suppliers were able to identify some key themes in the London market, which they will be presenting at the Australian Retail Drinks Conference in Canberra next month.

ALSA Project Manager Mal Higgs told National Liquor News that the decision to go to London was made because of a resurgence in the independent liquor space in that market.

“We chose London because our network has been telling us that there has been quite a resurgence in independent land. So the trading up or premiumisation trend that we’re seeing here in Australia, is also very evident in the UK.

“The dynamics of the UK packaged liquor trade are that supermarkets own about 90 per cent of the business. However, at the moment as we saw from some of our suppliers over there, the only category of the retail market that is growing is the independent slice.”

The aim of this year’s Study Tour was to look at the resurgence of the independent operator and why this has occurred, and at the other end of the spectrum, to see how the influence of the discounters, such as Aldi and Lidl has impacted the market.

The group visited a number of retail outlets across London, including Hedonism Wines, the World of Whisky and Vagabond Wines as well as receiving presentations from local suppliers on each of the major categories. This allowed the group to gain a broad understanding of the market, from which they were able to identify relevant themes.

Overall, the group found that it’s not just about stocking premium products, but is also about providing an ‘experience’.

In the Australian market, the traditional independent liquor store, for the most part, is part of a banner group, and is generally suburban-based. Therefore, almost by definition they are a convenience-based retailer.

“It raises the question that in the right demographic and the right environment, could you specialise that convenience model a little bit and rather than try to sell everything to everybody, could you look at specialising in maybe whisky or craft beer? And that challenged the group’s thinking,” said Higgs.

The group came up with two or three key themes, around identifying what to do and understanding your customer, which will be presented at the Australian Retail Drinks Conference on Thursday 17 August.

“In one respect it is fairly simple, and in another sense, something that appears simple isn’t necessarily that simple to execute. So, by the time we get to the Conference we will have some of the retailers presenting exactly what they’ve done in their stores,” said Higgs.

As a follow on, ALSA is looking at doing a short trip to Hong Kong in November, which will include two days in the trade and two days at the Hong Kong Wine & Spirits Fair.

Then the next international Study Tour will head to New York in February, where Higgs says “I want to have a closer look at the delivery model, and of course New York is always fantastic for really leading edge retail”.

For more on the Study Tour, including its look at the ‘Amazon Impact’, see the August issue of National Liquor News, which will be out soon.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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