Alcool NB Liquor

On a Mission to Provide the Best Retail Experience for Consumers

It’s been a very active and productive three years at New Brunswick’s Alcool NB Liquor since we last spoke with President and CEO Brian Harriman about the organization’s new branding journey. The Canadian Business Journal recently caught up with Harriman to get an update on the milestones that have been achieved since that initial conversation. In fact, on the day we spoke for a second time the annual Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival had just wrapped up in Fredericton, and once again it was a resounding success for ANBL and all those involved.

For the past several years ANBL has been on a conscious journey of becoming a world-class retailer driven by the customer experience.

“We’ve continued on that journey in really focusing on how we can create the best shopping experience for our customers,” begins Harriman.

As part of the evolution, ANBL has launched a new brand logo, and it has been very well received. Harriman believes the organization’s new logo is far more reflective of what people find inside the stores and is also more attuned with the goal of being viewed as a top-notch public retailer.

Eight new stores have been launched, renovating each to a world-class shopping experience that is driven by opportunities to learn. In addition to that, a number of new products are constantly being introduced for the public to experience.

“Inside our new store concepts we have Growler bars; we’re the first in Canada to launch them. There is beer on tap that we change out every week so there’s always a new assortment of craft beer that consumers can try,” says Harriman.

Upon entering an ANBL store one of the first things the public will notice are the in-store cocktail stations where consumers can learn how to create a variety of tasty beverages. Supplementary information about the various products is made available from well-trained in-store advisors who are able to offer their assistance in recommending wine and food pairings for any number of special occasions and events. It all permeates a much grander shopping experience. The hard work and dedication to change has been recognized by ANBL’s status as a finalist this year in the Retail Council of Canada awards for best new store design.

“We’re seeing excellent results from the changes that have been implemented and our average transactions have been up about 6.5% between the new stores and the old stores,” Harriman proudly says. “The new stores are really driving most of the revenue growth that we’re seeing, but it has also helped from an employee morale perspective. They love coming into work in these new buildings.”

In May, 2017, ANBL launched a dedicated Craft Beer Room at its flagship location in downtown Fredericton, marking the first one of its kind in Atlantic Canada. More than 200 craft beers are now available at the York Train Station store with a new assortment arriving each week. Aside from cans and bottles, the room also has four to six beers on tap at any time to fill growlers, which are large glass jugs to safely transport the draft home.

“The continued growth in craft beer is a great way for us to provide customers what they’re asking for but also to support local breweries, so it’s a win-win for us, the local economy and for the shoppers,” notes Harriman.

The month of May was exceptionally busy as it also marked the opening of ANBL’s first depot store in Salisbury, about 25km west of Moncton. Harriman describes the depot store concept as being ANBL’s version of Costco. Everything in the store is on pallets and the more you buy, the more you save. The purchase of three to five bottles means a savings of 3%; six to 11 bottles represents a 10% savings; and 12 bottles or more results in a 15% savings. There is also no restriction on mixing and matching various types of alcohol. Consumers continually ask for more assortment and value. They want the latest and greatest, whatever is trending, whether it’s sparkling wine or rosé or bourbon or Irish whiskey. The Depot store certainly helps on the value side where purchasing in larger volumes can lead to significant savings.

Harriman and his team are ultimately attempting to situate the organization’s retail environment in such a way that ANBL finds the optimal position for providing its consumers with the best access and shopping experiences for each and every type of occasion and circumstance.

“Our corporate stores are now much more of a destination for people to come and have a great shopping experience and learn about beverage alcohol whether it’s beer, wine or spirits,” he says. “We’ve also launched our Experience Wine Program and launching 30 new wines every single month, with a different theme each time. The price range is from $17.99 up to $100 a bottle.”

It is quite evident there is a genuine commitment from ANBL to create those education points and points of access for shoppers in a modern environment. Whether you’re a beginner or a connoisseur, it’s all about the enjoyment of the beverages being purchased. A new website will expand upon external communications and an e-commerce platform should be ready for transactions by the end of May, 2018.

Between the widespread success of its corporate and depot stores, the vast assortment of wines, spirits and beer, the online retail component and eventually home delivery, ANBL is providing an all-inclusive strategy to serve its customers. All of this is being accomplished while providing safe, responsible access and to help all consumers to enjoy each and every occasion to the utmost.

“We are very happy and pleased with the changes we’ve made, but we still a lot of work left to do. We continue to receive a tremendous amount of public feedback about how happy they are with the service and the experience they have,” adds Harriman.

The unyielding effort and dedication of each of the 676 employees is paying tremendous dividends, with customers reporting that they are extremely pleased with the augmented methods of in-store delivery thanks to the many innovative enhancements. The real proof is in the numbers, which indicate a robust pattern of growth. The latest independent research shows that 78% of NB Alcool Liquor’s shoppers rate it between a 7 and a 10, which is a remarkably high retail score.

Success in the business boils down to three basic components: excellent service, assortment and price. As a method of tracking sales and determining the ranking of the company brands on store shelves is a green, yellow and red ratings system as an indicator for the levels of success of the supplier brands. Regardless of the category, all new products are given at least six months to prove their worth on the shelves in order to properly align distribution and to ensure internal staff are aware of the products and to give consumers the chance to discover what is there.

“If you’ve been on the market for 12 months we will look and see how the product has performed. If it’s green, that’s wonderful. If the product is yellow there would be a six-month window to get it to green and if the product is red there is six months to get it up to yellow,” explains Harriman.

If a product is listed on the shelf it would typically be there for at least 18 months before being taken off, if sales did not warrant it being there, so it’s a very fair system.

ANBL is in the business of selling liquor but it’s commitment to responsible drinking is as evident as any other aspect of its brand marketing and sales campaigns to the public. ANBL does an incredibly large amount of work with MADD Canada.

“Our aspiration is not to have people drink more, it’s to have them enjoy better,” says Harriman. “We want to educate on food and alcohol pairings and to understand standard serving sizes. We don’t want overconsuming, which leads to bad experiences.”

ANBL offers a significant level of support for community festivals and events and in many of those events there are sponsorships set up that includes free transportation home. At the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival in Fredericton, Alcool NB Liquor had the ANBL Safe Ride program running with school buses and the branded logo that brought people to collection points with access to public transit, getting citizens to a point where they could safely get a taxi or a public bus or home directly. At the New Brunswick Spirits Festival the organization provides, with a purchase of a ticket, a $20 taxi cab voucher to get home safe. ANBL also sets up water bars at the various festivals to provide free bottles of water to members of the public.

“It’s been amazing to see the reaction of people at concerts or wine festivals and spirits shows who really appreciate having water and that ANBL is providing it free of charge. We recently gave away 6,000 bottles of water in two nights,” reveals Harriman.

ANBL is involved with numerous charities including the United Way as well as volunteering services such as the Fredericton Food Bank. There is a notable culture of volunteerism within the community, which is something that gives Harriman a great sense of pride.

“I’m thrilled with the pace of change and progress in the willingness and the excitement by which the team has jumped onboard. It’s been a great journey so far,” reflects Harriman. “We want the people of New Brunswick to feel their shopping experience is the best.”