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The Mill Liquorsave retail chain faces a major rebranding exercise after Asahi-owned Independent Liquor announced its purchase of the 35 stores across the country.
New Mill chief executive Jeremy Livingstone told BusinessDesk the top priority for the chain under Independent's ownership is a store refurbishment over the next 12-18 months, which will "lift the game of liquor retailing in New Zealand" by offering a "customer-preferred" and "gender-friendly" environment.
The retail chain will be run as a stand-alone business and may consider franchise opportunities once the refurbishment is complete.
The Mill, which was owned by New Plymouth-based Christopher and Nyall Simkin, have traditionally offered cheap liquor in a no-frills environment.
Papakura-based Independent, which claims annual sales in excess of $300 million, will pay an undisclosed sum for the 35-store Mill chain in a deal expected to settle in the middle of the year. The liquor company took a swipe at its rivals, saying those with retail arms refuse to stock competitors' brands, which is limiting competition.
Independent chief executive Julian Davidson says the liquor maker's main reason for the acquisition is to create a model in the market where all brands will be offered, though it is also to head off a risk of the chain falling into a rival's hands.
"We want to create a model where the Mill stocks everyone's product, irrespective of brand," he says. "That's the main driver of the exercise."
He declined to say what kind of revenue or earnings the acquisition would add to Independent, though says it is a "material" transaction.
The Mill's direct liquor chain rivals include Foodstuffs-owned Liquorland, which has 70 stores, Lion Nathan-owned Liquor King with 45 stores, Lion-linked franchise Super Liquor with 143 stores and Thirsty Liquor's 51 stores.
Liquor King, owned by Lion Nathan's Lion Liquor Retail, reported sales of $85.2 million in the 12 months ended September 30 last year, with gross profit of $17.6 million. Its total assets were valued $40.7 million as at September 30.