Martin Smith has seen some dramatic changes in the Australia liquor industry during his 45-year retail career.
Endeavour Drinks' retiring Managing Director came to Australia from the UK in 1970, where he joined Woolworths in at the age of 18.
As Smith recalled when he was guest speaker at a Drinks Association Network Breakfast in 2016, when he worked at Woolworths first liquor store in Western Australia it "pretty much only sold Swan lager!"
The supermarket chain now includes drinks chains including Dan Murphy's, BWS, Cellarmasters and Langtons.
In 2016, Smith reopened the doors to the original site of the Dan Murphy's Cellar in Melbourne, without a single beer on sale at the premises.
"There is a little bit of romance attached to this one," Martin Smith, Managing Director of Endeavour Drinks, told drinks trade at the time. "This is the original Dan Murphy's store located opposite our existing Dan Murphy's store on Chapel St."
The Cellar is a destination retail store for consumers, housing only fine wines and spirits from across the global, such as a rare 1959 Dom Perignon Oenothèque and 1971 Penfolds Bin 333.
The launch of the high-end concept cellar at Prahran VIC was awarded the Customer Experience Store Design Award at the Inside Retail’s 2017 Retailer Awards. Dan Murphy’s was also awarded the 2016 Catalogue Retailer of the year title.
Smith was Dan Murphy’s General Manager from 2008 to 2015, so it's a brand close to his heart.
“The thing that stands out for me within the Dan Murphy’s business, is the importance of trust with the customer,” Smith told the Drinks Association Network Breakfast. “I’ve always been a great believer that when you’re in the retail business, you’re in a relationship with your customer, and like any relationship, it’s built on trust, and if you betray that trust, the customer will leave you.”
Dan Murphy's is also the jewel in the Woolworths profit crown.
Endeavour Drinks reported strong full-year results in 2017, with 4.3% sales growth and 3.9% earnings growth.
Sales hit $7,913million, while earnings growth rose to more than $502.5million.
When announcing Smith's retirement last month, Brad Banducci, Woolworths Group CEO said: "I would like to thank Martin Smith for his significant contribution to Endeavour Drinks. Martin and the Endeavour Drinks team have helped build the leading business we have today.
Legacy as a leader
Smith's leadership of Endeavour Drinks attracted wide praise in the industry.
As Nick Karaloukas, Sales Manager Inkspin noted: "He is an absolute gentleman. It's a great lesson in how to choose and manage effective, committed people, the sum of which is, a healthy, happy work environment and a highly successful organisation."
Smith also championed diversity. He was a panellist at the Women in drinks 2017 International Women’s Day Network Event address issues of diversity and inclusion in the Australian drinks industry.
The conversation looked at where the responsibility lies for promoting greater gender diversity in leadership roles, cultural barriers, and how companies can empower women to lead.
Smith noted that he saw diversity and inclusion as being "a core and strategic value in our business".
"We believe ability has no gender, which allows us to have a great mix of people in our team…and there’s a real strategic advantage in doing that," he noted.
"There’s a realisation that in order for any business to succeed, you have to have the best kind of people working for you, and if you have a bias to one particular gender you’re in effect discounting 50% of the population."
New era for Endeavour
Steve Donohue, current Director of Buying and Merchandising for Woolworths Supermarkets, will replace Smith as Managing Director of Endeavour, effective from April this year.
Like Smith, he started his career as a teenager in Woolworths liquor - as a store manager in Dan Murphy’s when he was just 19 years old. He progressed into senior Buying, Merchandising and Marketing roles in Dan Murphy’s, BWS and the broader drinks business.
Banducci said: “We are pleased to announce Steve as the new Managing Director of Endeavour Drinks. Steve rejoins our drinks team after spending the last five years rebuilding our Buying and Merchandising capabilities, first with Countdown in New Zealand and more recently in his role with Woolworths Supermarkets in Australia.
“He’s been instrumental in delivering our Woolworths Supermarkets pricing and range strategy as well as transforming our supplier engagement program.”
Smith will remain with Endeavour until June 30, working with Steve Donohue as he transitions into his new role.