Industry stakeholders reflect on NILWA’s 27-year contribution to Aus on-premise

April 26, 2024
By Cody Profaca

This week, the National Independent Liquor Wholesalers Association (NILWA) announced that it will be permanently closing its doors, effective from 31 May. The Wednesday announcement follows on from the recent liquidation of one of its three wholesaler members, Gateway Liquor.

The NILWA news signifies a major blow for the on-premise regions the Association represents and is reflective of the wider industry pressures currently being experienced by Australia’s on-premise trade.

Drinks Trade reached out Michael East, Mark Churi and Ian Kingham, three of NILWA’s long-term supporters, to hear their thoughts on Wednesday’s announcement.

Michael East, former CEO of Accolade Wines, has been involved with NILWA since its conception.

“It doesn’t seem like 27 years since Sandra Przibilla first floated the idea to me of forming NILWA and asked for my view,” he said. 

“NILWA had humble beginnings, however Sandra and the members were determined to carve out a clear purpose for the regionally based, family owned and operated, liquor wholesale businesses.” 

Mark Churi, General Manager of Sales at Casella Family Brands, has also been around since the beginning.

“I went to the first NILWA conference, the launch of the group, dinner under the stars and climbing Ayres Rock,” he said.

“What stood out to me was NILWA as a family group; it was the first of many family friendly events where the NILWA Directors and most suppliers brought their children. This was unusual at the time and differentiated the group, exemplifying the catchphrase, “family in business’. This approach bonded us all from the beginning and today my children are still connecting with Rex Daquino’s children and the Petersen family.”

Ian Kingham, former National Merchandise Manager at ALH Group, said that NILWA’s strength had always been in the quality and authenticity of its staff. 

“The professionalism and understanding of the market from people like Sandra Przbilla, Martin O’Mara and Jenny Hughes, who were always open and transparent, made working with NILWA a pleasure. In short, good people to do business with,” he said.

“In my mind. Sandra Prizibilla and Janis brought us all together nurturing not only family connections but a sound commercial trading framework,” added Churi. 

“Sandra was key in harnessing the group’s energy and unique mixture of strong personalities, sometimes with differing agendas,” he continued. 

“As the years moved on, Martin and Jenny took strong ownership and leadership, continuing the NILWA family model. The result was we enjoyed many years of sound commercial relationships supported by genuine friendships.”

East and Kingham both believe that the closure of NILWA, which served an essential pillar for the on-premise communities it supported, could leave a significant gap in the industry.

“One of our challenges at the time was getting the right range into our pub network, in particular accessing products that were only set up for retail network,” said Kingham reflecting on his time at ALH Group. 

“For example, the Rum Bar at The Breakfast Creek Hotel needed access to a wide range of rums that were not stocked in our warehouse. NILWA helped us achieve a customer-focused range.”

“NILWA had a clear purpose and focus in the on-premise sector,” added East.

“They worked closely with their customers and became a professional, well managed Association at a time when funding was tight. 
My memories are very much of the first 10 years of NILWA. I respected what they achieved, against the odds, and really enjoyed working with the management and owners. 

“I appreciated getting to know some of the great characters who have graced our industry.”

For more information about the closure of NILWA, read this Drinks Trade article.

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