By James Atkinson

Coles' food and liquor division this week reported strong overall quarterly sales figures and new liquor marketing boss, Cameron MacFarlane (pictured), believes brighter times are around the corner for his division.

MacFarlane, the former marketing director for Foster's New Zealand, joined Coles Liquor as general manager of marketing about four months ago, following several other high-profile appointments.

He spoke exclusively to TheShout ahead of Coles this week announcing headline food and liquor sales of $6.6 billion for the quarter, up 4.9 per cent on the previous corresponding period and 3.7 per cent on a like for like basis. 

The retailer achieved the result – which outstripped Woolworths' 2.3 per cent gain for the same period – in spite of its misfiring liquor division.

MacFarlane told TheShout that the First Choice big box chain is the biggest opportunity for the retailer to improve its showing in liquor.

"When you look at what we've got and how many people know about it, there's quite a big gap," he said.

"Equally Liquorland, the most well-known retail business in the country from a branding perspective, there's a huge opportunity for us there."

For both First Choice and Liquorland, MacFarlane said Coles had previously relied on "pretty traditional means" like press advertisements and catalogues to communicate its offer to consumers. 

"We hadn't utilised other mechanisms such as online, TV, cinema and radio to get more of a balance between the great value we offer and what the brands are all about," he said.

He told TheShout that while First Choice has done an excellent job communicating its value offer to consumers, the chain has lacked personality, and that's where new wine ambassador Matt Skinner comes in.

"What we love about his personality is it's a bit more like us – we're not trying to take ourselves too seriously, we are a bit younger, we are a bit more contemporary," MacFarlane said.

"I think he's the perfect person to embody or personify that approach. He's got a really genuine way about him and he's as far from 'wine wanker' as anyone you would meet."

MacFarlane added that while people know what Liquorland is, "there's not a great deal to differentiate that between us and the others, so we want to challenge that".

"We are looking at much more personality-based advertising, that's all I can say at this point in time," he said.

He said the new marketing approach to Vintage Cellars will leverage its impressive wine range and wine club offering, with further details to be released later in the year.

Coles opened six liquor stores and closed ten during the first quarter of 2012-13 as it continued its focus on improving its liquor store network, resulting in a total of 788 liquor stores.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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