Who would have thought a freezing cold trip to New York would turn into a fully-fledged e-commerce business? The Founder of Liquor Loot, Joel Hauer, spoke to us about how his business experienced 300 percent YoY growth and earned an investment round led by Tony Gandel.
What started out as a trip to ‘freezing cold’ New York turned into a ‘spirit as a service’ subscription model, resulting in a $1.5 million investment led by Tony Gandel of Gandel Investments.
“I was craving a drink to warm myself up and asked the barman for a recommendation. The barman then amazed me by asking a series of questions before serving me up a Smoky Old Fashioned cocktail,” Founder Joel Hauer, tells us. “Inspired by my encounter in the New York speakeasy, I wrote down a series of questions which I believed could lead people to the perfect Whisky recommendation. Those questions are still at the heart of the Whisky tasting quiz we use at Whisky Loot today to guide our subscribers from Whisky novice to Whisky connoisseur and help them find the best Whiskies for them along the way.”
Liquor Loot is an online subscription model that provides a monthly package of three premium whiskey and gin tasters from around the world. “At Liquor Loot, we are witnessing a new way people want to discover their favourite spirits, coupled with a less volume, higher quality consumer consumption trend,” he says.
With a strong passion for digital, this venture has been years in the making. Hauer started his career in digital advertising, working in the industry before creating his own agency. “I had always had a passion for whisky and gin and this, as well as a few hospitality-related gigs whilst I was studying, coupled with my background in digital marketing, made the perfect match for building Liquor Loot,” he explains.
The focus for digital doesn’t stop with advertising, he says. The constant development and optimisation of tech and business operations have led the company to scale and serve the demand for online alcohol subscription services.
Since launching in 2016, Liquor Loot has reported growth of 300 percent YoY. In 2020, the business recorded more than 40,000 deliveries, a goal that Joel and the business are expecting to double this year. “There is a strong history of Australian direct to consumer companies, such as Koala, enjoying rapid success in these markets,” he says.
When Gandel Investments led an investment round of $1.5 million, Tony Gandel became ‘bullish’ about the growth and expansion of Liquor Loot’s potential. “Our key focus will be to expand the team, hiring more experts in the fields of [the] supply chain, and key e-commerce areas, which will enable us to further scale the business, our product line and verticals we operate in,” Hauer explains.
Liquor Loot has continued to expand its product offering and has been recognised by leading e-commerce and design awards. “Our products have appeared in Aldi, David Jones, Qantas and we have penned deals with some of the best marketplaces in Australia to further distribute our products to those who love them,” he says.
Much like every other business in the last two years, the pandemic has impacted the growth and success of Liquor Loot. Despite being an online business, it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. “Restrictions have certainly had both positive and negative effects on the industry, and we have not been sheltered to only the positive,” he tells us. “Since COVID entered the picture, the business has experienced increased demand for our services, but we have also had logistics constraints, warehousing issues and overall growing pains to carefully manage.”
In contrast to these challenges, Liquor Loot has added more than ten new staff members to its team and continued to increase its customer base, primed for potential growth.
Does Liquor Loot expect to see continued momentum after 2021? Absolutely. “2021 has seen us continue to grow its relationships with globally renowned distilleries including Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Moët Hennessy and Proximo, whilst further expanding our retail footprint through partnerships with David Jones, Aldi and Qantas,” he says. “We have launched a new brand to market through our Spirits Loot Advent Calendar as well so as a business we are very much on a strong growth trajectory.”
One of the key features of this service is its monthly deliveries. However, the ongoing delays in deliveries have caused a serious strain on businesses. “We closely monitor the delivery KPIs and as we use Australia Post, are staying close to any updates we hear from them,” says Hauer. “Although some of these pauses have affected some delivery days, in total, we haven’t felt too many management disruptions in the past few months. I can imagine that the process of frequent pauses on dispatch collections will continue, potentially past the new year, but hopefully, the backlog will subside as most of Australia gets out of lockdown.”
Every business experiences its ups and downs, but for Liquor Loot, it’s all a part of the process. “There are a number of areas that e-commerce businesses can struggle with depending on their business model and strategic outlook,” he says. “Many small e-commerce businesses have a slow and steady approach to growth, oftentimes leaving the door open for competition to come in with larger budgets, more aggressive growth plans and a longer-term vision with funding in place to focus less on short-term profitability, and more on long-term sustainable growth.
“Challenges exist at every level of growth, although those who envisage how their business can leave its mark on the industry as a whole, are often rewarded due to their long term vision and strategic outlook. I think it’s important for businesses of all levels to stay attuned to technological and industry trends and try to see around the corner of innovation and disruption, to ensure they stay the course for the long term.”
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