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Majors move in on local independent liquor outlets

JUST months after it bought Patrick Stephenson’s 45-store Liberty Liquors chain, Wool-worths seems to be putting it to work as an acquisition vehicle.

Thompsons Liquor in Bassendean, a former West Coast Liquor outlet, is now in Liberty Liquor’s livery and further purchases are expected.

The supermarket chains Coles-Myer and Woolworths now hold around 145 of WA’s 450 liquor outlets between them.

It is understood Woolworths plans to bring four brands into the WA market: the Liberty’s brand will become BWS (beer wine and spirits); liquor stores attached to Woolworths supermarkets; First Crop for premium product; and the Dan Murphy’s warehouse outlets.

With its acquisition of Aust-

ralian Liquor Group Coles-Myer is expected to use Liquor Land, Vintage Cellars and its bud-

get brand Quaffers in the WA market.

West Coast Liquor’s Laurie Hurley said Woolworths was now chasing the strong independent liquor stores. He said the supermarket chains’ hold on the WA liquor market was consid-erable.

“The problem is they have 65 of the top outlets,” Mr Hurley said.

“Woolworths are on an aggressive acquisition program and a few of our members are in their path. They could potentially gobble up some of our better stores.”

He said he did not expect the 15 per cent cap proposed as a “gentleman’s agreement” between the national operators to remain.

The cap is not enshrined in legislation although a proposal was put to Parliament two years ago.

Liquor Stores Association executive director Lindsay James said that proposal had been flawed because it was only aimed at packaged liquor outlets.

“If the ownership numbers of liquor stores was capped, what’s to stop the buyers going after pubs,” Mr James said.

He feels the acquisitions will not spell doom for WA’s independent liquor store owners.

“Good independents often have an advantage over the chain stores,” Mr James said.

The former West Coast Liquor outlet on McCourt Street, West Leederville, is also on the market but there is no word of a potential buyer.

That store was owned by West Coast Liquor and Wells Gold Corporation as part of ill-fated joint venture Internet liquor retailer called Liquorhome.

The Liquorhome plans have been shelved and Wells Gold, now called Renewable Investments Limited, bought out West Coast’s interest in the store.

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