Four generations of liquor retail

23 July, 2020 by Brydie Allen

To be a fourth generation liquor retailer is no small feat, but that’s life for Adam Bellamy of Platinum Liquor in Sydney.

The first generation harks back to Italy, where Bellamy’s great grandfather was a merchant of wine, grain, stock and ‘a little bit of everything’. Then in the late fifties, his grandparents immigrated to Australia and saw the liquor industry as a good avenue to grow from, becoming the second generation of family retailers. Bellamy’s parents, the third generation, met through having liquor stores, until finally the fourth generation became Bellamy and his brother, who now own two outlets in North Strathfield and Bellevue Hill.

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A lot has changed over the years throughout the family’s time as retailers in Australia. Beyond customer tastes and behaviours, Bellamy describes how offerings and perceptions about different categories have changed over time.

“It’s kind of weird because it’s changed so much but stayed so similar. I’ve been seeing things change at the store since I was quite young, and my dad would talk about the days where you literally had Moselle and Claret, those were the two options for wine, by the flagon. We’ve gone from that to the kaleidoscope landscape that we have now,” Bellamy said.

“When I first started to pay attention to retail in the early to mid 2000s, there was the ever famous wine glut, and it was all about cleans. Everything was clean skins, it was the big thing… but it kind of lowered the bar and that’s when you start to see the crazy ‘bottle of wine for $1.69,’ just crazy valuations of wine that changed some people’s perceptions of what they were willing to pay for a bottle.

“Wine and beer have now gone either crazy ultra premium or keep running along that base line. I wouldn’t say it’s gotten lower, but we do sell plenty of five dollar wine.

“But everyone’s version of how things have changed will be different, depending on how far back you go. My uncle jokes that Heineken used to be considered super exotic.”

Another thing that Bellamy and his family have noticed over the years is the changing priorities for where customers want to spend their disposable income. It became even more evident as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, changing spending patterns again.

“We’ve found that there’s an amount of money that liquor stores might not see anymore, and it’s that money that is being put aside for experiences, especially in places like Sydney. If you’re going to go to a nice restaurant or a brewery, you don’t usually come to me and spend money because you’ve set it aside for those experiences,” Bellamy explained.

“I think most people have remembered, when COVID-19 started, to understand how valuable their local liquor store is for sure… we’re fortunate enough to be considered essential, which I think is really cool, and it’s made people think oh, I took that store for granted. But we’re here for those people.”

These human connections are what Bellamy refers to as a reason for his family remaining in the industry for so long as independent retailers.

“There’s a huge amount of joy in someone telling you what they think they want, and you really hitting the bullseye. There’s a good amount of reward in that… and it’s a point of difference. Hand on heart I think we’re the only store in the near vicinity, that if you came in, we’d be able to help you with specifics,” Bellamy said.

“There’s a mix of being passionate about what you do, and feeling like you can win people over with your suggestions, charisma or style… all those things that make up interactions with people.”

Quick fire questions:

First industry job: Here!
Favourite drink: Beer
Favourite iso activity: Cooking
Best holiday destination: Italy

This article originally appeared in the July issue of National Liquor News, which you can read online here.