21 May 2013

Independent Liquor looks to lift The Mill brand

7:18 am on 21 May 2013

Independent Liquor, owned by Japanese brewing company Asahi, is buying the 35 store retail chain The Mill for an undisclosed sum.

The Mill is currently owned by New Plymouth-based brothers Christopher and Nyall Simkin.

Independent Liquor has about 15% of the packaged beer market, brewing under licence brands such as Carlsberg and Kingfisher, about 13% of the spirits and liquor market and about 60% of the ready-to-drink segment.

Independent Liquor chief executive Julian Davidson says a major reason for the move is that his company's products are excluded from stores controlled by major rivals.

The Mill stores will continue to stock all brands, not just those of his company, and the purchase does not indicate Independent Liquor's intention to become a major retailer in its own right, he says.

In the longer term he says the company plans to sell the outlets to independent owners as franchises.

Mr Davidson says Independent Liquor isn't setting out to increase The Mill's store numbers.

"Were not openly looking to change the overall structure of the marketplace in New Zealand through this exercise," he says.

The Mill will be operated as a stand-alone unit with its own chief executive, Jeremy Livingston, who has worked for 20 years in the liquor industry for both Lion Nathan and DB before joining Independent Liquor.

Mr Livingston says The Mill is a famous brand but standards need lifting. "The Mill is an iconic brand in the New Zealand market place and has been for 20 years. Over the last few years it's got a little bit tired."

He says a refurbishment programme aims to make the shops more modern and shopper friendly.