2 minutes of your time: Chris Richardson

2 minutes of your time: Chris Richardson

Thanks to Japanese firm Suntory’s acquisition of Jim Beam for $16bn, the latter’s UK distribution business, Maxxium, has added a number of new lines to its range, including leading Japanese whiskies – so how can local retailers in Scotland cash in?

Chris RichardsonFactfile

Chris Richardson is Customer Marketing Controller at Maxxium UK, the leading spirits distribution company with brands including The Famous Grouse, The Macallan, Laphroaig and Jim Beam.

It’s been a busy period for Maxxium – what’s being happening?
Maxxium UK is a very exciting place at the moment. We are fortunate to distribute some of the best, most sought after brands in the spirits category and our portfolio has recently increased with the addition of the Morrison Bowmore portfolio.

What new brands can retailers expect to see?
In addition to the likes of The Macallan, Highland Park and Laphroaig, we now distribute Auchentoshan, Bowmore and Glen Garioch, as well as the Hibiki, Yamazaki and Hakushu Japanese whisky brands. These brands join Maxxium at a time when consumer demand for premium products continues to grow.

So is whisky your main focus?
It’s important, and our malt whisky portfolio is also number one overall, but we have representation across a wide range of categories, including blended Scotch whisky, malt whisky, imported whisk(e)y, Cognac, sherry, gin, rum, liqueurs and ready to serve products. We are very fortunate.

Why do you take a category approach?
Given the strength and diversity of the brands we work with, we believe we also have a responsibility to help grow sales of spirits overall and that means working with our customers to do the right things for the category. We believe strongly that objective category advice will deliver the best results and that, by working in this way, we will build long-term, trust-based relationships that deliver profitable growth for both us and our customers.

What shape is the spirits category in?
It’s no secret that the whisk(e)y category is on fire, particularly bourbon. Flavoured whiskey is a key trend in this area and is attracting new people to the category. Jim Beam has been performing extremely well, with flavours supporting the growth of our core range. Premiumisation remains a key trend too as consumers look for high quality brands to make their big night in special.

How can retailers make an instant improvement to their sales of spirits?
Start by getting to know your customers and what they are looking for. Ask yourself, who is my target shopper? Are they affluent or budget conscious, mature or mostly university students? Then consider what that means for your store. You still want to offer a breadth of products to meet different people’s needs but focus on offering a bit more choice in categories that will appeal to your primary shopper base. To help with this we’ve developed a category advice programme called Know Your Store which provides simple, easy to use advice to build spirits sales.

How does Know Your Store help retailers work their spirits category more intelligently?
Our objective with Know Your Store was to understand how convenience shoppers buy their spirits in order to help retailers drive total basket spend and grow overall sales. This has been developed using retailer focus groups and also in collaboration with independent research agency him! so it is insight- based but very practical and easy to use.

Is there an opportunity for retailers to use spirits to give their store a point of difference?
We encourage retailers to identify their point of difference and capitalise on it. Spirits shoppers will add more value to outlets because they spend more time in store, on average spend more money and generally visit more frequently than non-spirits shoppers. Simple tips can help to set a store apart from the rest, from blocking your bottles by category to ensuring that clear, visible pricing and premium point of sale highlight key products and promotions.