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Confessions of a retailer: Lidl

The budget supermarket chain’s new spirits buyer, Paul McQuade, explains the need for affordable prices and high quality.

Paul McQuade, spirits buyer at Lidl

As a spirits buyer, what qualities do you look for in a new product?
Every category of spirit requires a very tailored approach, so we look at each one on a case­-by­-case basis.

What is the best way for new spirit producers to grab your attention and get their products stocked in your stores?
The first thing we’re looking for is the quality of the liquid, and this is top priority when considering what will eventually make it onto shelves. After that, we work with suppliers on all the other necessary aspects of getting a product to market.

What is it that consumers are looking for in a new spirit purchase from Lidl?
Lidl customers expect high quality at good prices across all categories. This is especially important when it comes to spirits, as there’s such a huge range of price and quality across the category.

What is your best-selling product or category and why it has been so successful?
Most recently, white spirits have grown stronger and stronger. The rise of craft gin in the UK market has seen consumers become very open to trying new gin product launches. Our Hortus Arsan Gin has performed so well that we also launched a Hortus Sloe Gin at Christmas, and a Hortus summer edition will be in stores very soon.

What is the most exciting part of your job?
Visiting distilleries and finding out more about what suppliers could offer for Lidl customers.

Why did you hire cocktail expert Tristan Stephenson?
With his impressive knowledge and expertise, Tristan will help strengthen Lidl’s success in the spirits category, by advising on new product development as well as providing tasting notes and cocktail recipes for new and existing products. His insight will work as a guide for shoppers, making it easier to understand which spirits are best suited to them.

What sets Lidl apart from other spirits retailers out there?
We were recently awarded Spirits Retailer of the Year 2016, which should give our customers confidence in the quality available in our spirits range.

How did you get interested in spirits?
Coming from Scotland, I have been lucky enough to visit many of the country’s wonderful whisky distilleries. This sparked a keen interest into how spirits are created and perfected over me.

What spirits trend is exciting you at the moment, and why? What do you think will be big in the spirits world in 2017?
Given the success of our Hortus Gin range, I am confident that gin will be a continued trend, coupled with customers looking out for great value for money.

Is there any particular category that you would like to see available at Lidl?
This month we are set to launch three new single malts – a Highland, a Speyside and an Islay single malt – all at extremely competitive prices. Historically, our spirits range has received impressive accolades from the trade, with Jim Murray awarding 95.5 points to our own­-label Glen Alba in his Whisky Bible 2017. We’re confident that these new premium­-orientated products will be well received as well.

How would you describe the typical Lidl customer?
Lidl customers appreciate great value for money – that’s why our range includes a selection of premium spirits at affordable prices, but deliver fantastic quality.

What do you think the future of spirits retail looks like?
As customers become increasingly discerning, and trends are faster to take off, buying teams will be expected to deliver quick, efficient turnaround. Retailers will need to be prepared, from an operational point of view, to get high­-demand products on shelves at the same rate that consumers are picking up on them.

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