By James Atkinson

Australia’s drinks suppliers have made around 400 middle management, sales and administration roles redundant this year.

The figure of between 380 and 420 jobs lost, estimated by the Drinks Association, applies to the period from July 2013 to November 2014, so does not include the layoffs announced by Coca-Cola Amatil last week.

None of the dominant players in beer, wine and spirits were immune to the process, which saw middle management roles decimated and some suppliers deciding the independent channel no longer warranted its own costly network of sales representatives.

The changes were the lead item on the agenda for discussion in the supplier panels at the Australian Liquor Stores Association conference in August, where sales executives from companies including Lion, CUB, Bacardi Lion, Brown-Forman revealed they had all made cutbacks of varying degrees. 

“Definitely the role of a representative coming into your stores is not to talk about the footy scores any longer,” said Bacardi Lion sales director Jeremy Goodale.

Lion sales director Mark Powell said all customers would still get called on by representatives, “but we’re just tailoring it a bit with the frequency”.

Some of Brown-Forman’s customers actually welcomed the new approach, according to sales director Andy McNamara.

“It’s surprising the feedback we’re getting – ‘if you’ve got value to add that’s great, but please don’t send someone in just for the sake of it’,” he said.

Staff axed as media spend declines

With increased investment in online services for customers, the sales execs said reps in the modern era would provide more sophisticated and targeted solutions, as well as product training and education.

Goodale said the money saved would deliver a “war chest” of funds to be reinvested in brands.

But Nielsen media estimates tell a different story, with alcoholic beverage media spend falling sharply to $92 million in the 2013-14 financial year.

This represents a 14 per cent decline compared to the $107.5 million spent in 2010-11, and a 16 per cent decline on the $110 million spent the previous year.

The circa 400 back of house job losses came to light in a recent remuneration survey by the Drinks Association. 

Add in production roles, such as those shed from vineyards and wineries by the wine industry, and the total figure of job losses is around 1500. 

Click here to read the reaction of retailers to this story.

The Shout Team

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

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