In the spotlight: Scott Thomas, Liquor Legends
In the August issue of National Liquor News, we caught up with Scott Thomas the Venue Manager of Liquor Legends Anglers Inn in South Australia.
NLN: Scott, how did you get into liquor retailing?
SCOTT: I’ve been involved in the industry for around seven years now. I fell into it by accident when a good mate asked if I would be interested. After having years of both wholesaler and retailer experience it was appealing and I certainly haven’t regretted the move to this point. It provides the same challenges as most industries as retailing is the same regardless of what the product may b
NLN: What are the top performing categories in your store?
SCOTT: As we are in a country location and are a holiday destination our strongest category is still beer. While the locals tend to stick to the traditional brands, during holiday season our ranging changes dramatically as we see the city folk tend to be more open to new and innovative products. The usual issues occur with beer where margins are continually squeezed and make for a very competitive environment locally. In saying this, we still have an extremely strong RTD category and have also made significant inroads to the more lucrative wine category with constant range changes and a good everyday pricing model. Obviously we push towards the more profitable categories where possible and I certainly have more time for the suppliers that provide this. They almost certainly get floor space when they can provide good pricing, margin and reasonable buy in offers.
NLN: What are the benefits of being a part of the Liquor Legends banner group?
SCOTT: We made the move to Liquor Legends almost three years ago from a significant player in South Australia. We were approached in the early days of them entering the SA market and their innovation stood out compared to the traditional players. To date I couldn’t speak highly enough of their energy, drive and support to ensure that the independent stays relevant and competitive against the big boys. The membership system is second to none with the customer seeing real benefit in what it offers. We have extended this throughout the hotel which has assisted us to maintain and grow our position locally. The ‘spend/get’ initiative is brilliant and provides us with another tool to bring people in and maintain them. This also allows us to get new and unusual products into the consumers’ hands which is imperative considering the amount of new product that hits the streets regularly. The membership allows us to tailor marketing promotions around the customer giving them actual benefit and return. Supplier marketing competitions provide no real benefit but we have been able to drive real growth around products as we have been able to automatically enter consumers into a local draw whereby the consumer knows this in not a million to one chance but based on the local population who choose to shop with us. A quick example is a particular beer product that we could never get traction with but once we offered the local consumer the opportunity to win a local prize we were able to increase our sales three-fold. This only comes with the Liquor Legends systems and support
NLN: What are the main challenges you face as a liquor retailer in the South Australian market?
SCOTT: The main issue is staying relevant in the industry against the major players who have significant advantages against the independent. Trying to move away from a price-based model to an innovative, consumer relatable model is paramount for survival. With online now starting to make an impact it’s all the more important to aggressively pursue this as the consumer ultimately makes the decision as to how they get their product. It’s also important to be wise in your decision making with suppliers constantly trying new products and offering incentives to get them on your floor. The cost of carrying dead products is a massive problem and while we need innovation to ensure the consumer comes back, it’s important to ensure whatever is being released actually has some significant opportunity behind it. A classic example would be wine in cans which effectively is now dead really before it even began. Another investment from the retailer that never really gave the return promised. As far as consumer marketing goes I find that the competitions seem to provide no real value to us or the consumer, unless the consumer can see and feel attached to whatever they have entered into, it’s really money wasted. Suppliers need to engage at the retailer, local level to ensure they have a chance of success. Obviously this is becoming increasingly challenging for the supplier as they cut costs by reducing on the road sales people and look for other alternatives to go to market.
NLN: How do you see the liquor retail market evolving in the future?
SCOTT: As we see the consumer constantly dictating how and what they will do, it’s important as retailers that we listen and give them what they require. If we were to just continue down the same path of a simply price driven model we would all be eaten up and the consumer would suffer as choice would be diminished. This has clearly happened in other industries where the consumer wasn’t offered enough choice and options and ultimately these sectors. Liquor is no different to any other type of retail, it needs to innovate and invest in new technologies to stay ahead of the game. Too many groups seem to be sitting on their hands expecting it all to remain the same hence the attraction to Liquor Legends who are constantly on the bleeding edge of technology and invest in their stores to ensure that they have a competitive advantage at all times. As far as marketing in general terms, the laws will continually evolve and eventually limit us with what we can and can’t do, so what we what do now is all the more important to ensure that the independent survives whatever will inevitably be presented to us in the future.