Twenty-one years and independently strong

December 31, 2023
By Anthony Abdallah

Early in 2023, Independent Liquor Retailers celebrated its 21st birthday. For more than two decades, our cooperative has been a true champion of the independent, with multiple brands to cater for any type of liquor retailer in Australia. With 410 stores across all our groups, we are set to reach new heights in 2024.

Independent Liquor Retailers (ILR) returns all profits to its members each year. That’s why our key focus in the past financial year was to reset and invest in our business, to provide those members with the tools to deliver on our growth aspirations.

The environment over the past year has had its challenges. Although some problems of the past, such as COVID restrictions and global shipping delays, are largely behind us, we are still feeling the impacts of rising inflation. Despite this, ILR continued to achieve improved results, increasing our profits, rebates and rewards to members over the course of the year.

At ILR, we have a lean business structure, a simple trading model offering high rebate returns, and a strong marketing program. We pride ourselves on our transparency and adaptability and always take a members-first approach to our business. We charge no joining fees or membership fees.

ILR delivered some important initiatives to help members; these were our key goals for FY23

  • Digital transformation in our marketing, improving the personalization of our content and being more occasion-focused
  • Enhance our everyday low-price program.
  • Build our online sales presence.

We have invested in IT Systems in FY23 to set up for future growth

  • New promotions management platform. This will provide for easier execution of our members’ advice and faster loading of promotions, including those from our warehouse partner Australian Liquor Marketers. It will also help us analyze and review the results of promotional activity, resulting in more effective marketing campaigns for our members.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to give our business development managers more access to store data, promotional activity and competitor insights.
  • We have also shifted all our internal IT into cloud-based systems and are now set up for regional expansion.

During FY23, ILR delivered some important initiatives to help members reduce their costs of doing business and provided additional rewards and information to support ranging decisions. A new ranging rebate rewarded members for executing on our core and extended ranges, while the investment of money into price from our suppliers doubled.

With insurance costs for small businesses rising steeply year-on-year, a new partnership with Steadfast Group Insurance was a further initiative to benefit our members. This can deliver thousands of dollars in savings on bottle shop insurance. FY23 was also the first year of our partnership with the Australian Hotels Association, New South Wales.

The year saw us continue our path of digital transformation in our marketing, improving the personalisation of our content and being more occasion-focused. In 2022, to mark our more than 20 years in business, we launched our “Cheers to 20 years” and “Cheers to You” marketing campaign. The campaign was designed to celebrate locals supporting locals, highlighting wine and beer from regions surrounding the stores. Our Cash Splash promotion, offering cash prizes for customers over a 28-day period with a $25,000 grand prize at the end, had more entries than any of our past “Summerbration” campaigns. The result was an extremely successful summer sales period.

On a personal note, since joining Independent Liquor Retailers in July 2023, I have been impressed with the team’s tireless work to meet changing consumer demands and provide profitable margin returns for our members. My previous roles have reinforced to me the importance of relationships across stakeholders, the Suppliers, our Wholesalers and the Members in delivering improved sales, margin and profit as a result of growing market share. My aim in 2024 is to strengthen IRL’s partnerships with all our stakeholders and lead ILR into its next growth phase.

I am thrilled to share the culmination efforts of our board and the dedicated team across our organisation; we have meticulously crafted a Strategic Plan and are working on the ten strategic priorities that will deliver the plan and propel ILR towards an even brighter future through innovation and growth. Our members and their continued support and loyalty to our business drive our passion to support their continued success. We are excited to have them with us on this journey as we embrace our proud independence and continue supporting them in driving their success.

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