In an otherwise recessionary world, spirits sales here appeared to enjoy a 3.2 per cent fillip last year. Glaswegian Andy O’Hara has a few theories as to why this might be.
“Spirits have never been better value for money than they are today,” he explains, “The consumer is now embracing spirits in a whole new way whether it’s at home or in the pub with the mixability in a tall glass or through indulgence in a cocktail.
“The spirits industry itself has done a lot in terms of supporting this, through education and value promotions.”
Dillon’s experienced some very positive feedback and results when it took its Brand Education Roadshow to the regions.
“All of this contributed to the overall positive growth for the spirits category.”
Spirits will continue to enjoy positive growth through 2012, reckons Andy, “… albeit perhaps not to the same level as 2011”.
Consumers know what they want
Believing that the consumer has never been more educated he adds, “They know what they want and they know what represents value-for -money. Within the on-trade this year we will continue to roll out our ‘Mixability’ and ‘Sampling’ promotions. Our recent promotional programmes in conjunction with Coke brands has proved very popular with the trade and consumers alike.”
As a new hand on the tiller, Andy intends taking stock of just where Dillon’s stands at present.
“The start of our year has been reasonably positive in relation to volume and market share gains,” he says, “Obviously, I will look to ensure that we build on this.
“That said, April, for many reasons, has proved to be a difficult month across the industry.”
He’s not alone here, but puts it down to a combination of things: “The Household Charge, an early Easter, a late May Bank Holiday and pretty horrible weather certainly didn’t help. Hopefully this was a blip !
“Long term, we will look to build on our already very strong trading partnerships, look to build on our World Class portfolio and continue to get closer to the consumer.”
He finds the ongoing focus on price over quality disturbing.
So how do we get a value experience back into the business? Value could be achieved equally through service and product experience – it doesn’t have to be merely price. Can we just add some variety into our customer experience?” he asks.
Route to market
Having begun to radically review Dillon’s route to market back in 2007, Andy has been deeply involved in making the necessary changes in how it currently works with its wholesale and on-trade partners in particular.
“In the last five years, we’ve actively supported this route to market change through helping develop our wholesaler promotional offerings, salesforce education, carrying the correct range and delivering the quality service that our customers demand.
“None of this could have been done without the support and drive of our Business Development executives and National Account Team who embraced the changes, working in close proximity with the wholesalers across the country.”
Dillon’s has also been active in helping promote the on-trade in other ways.
“Our regional Brand Roadshows helped us stay engaged with the on-trade,” he believes, “Participants at these shows enjoyed brand education workshops including the Perfect Serve and cocktail creations. We supported this with Drinks Menu Creations, POS supply and further in-call back-up support.
“We believe that the ladies and gentlemen who participated translated all of this back into their own establishments.
“Our BDEs, Brand Ambassadors (including our portfolio Ambassador Alan Kavanagh) are in regular contact with the trade to ensure that our education programmes remain relevant at all times.
“Recently we actively supported the LVA’s ‘Dublin Does Fridays’ campaign through a series of Mixability and Sampling promotions in conjunction with Coke.
“It’s potentially driving people back into the pub and hopefully picking up our products if the right offering is there. Equally, I think that more pubs are embracing the idea that we need to act differently and to do that now.
“There are still some publicans out there who need to realise that the industry is willing and able to offer more support and help in creating a better experience, delivering education and creating a better serve at the end of the day, so we’re all pushing in the same direction but some of us are getting there a bit sooner than others.”
As we part company, Andy tells me he feels “very proud and excited” at the prospect of taking over the reins at Dillon’s and values his past experience.
“I have worked with the company for 17 years covering several roles and gaining invaluable experience along the way,” he says, “This business is about people and we have certainly built and will to continue to build strong trading relationships.”