By Paul McBeth
Independent Liquor is extending its reach into retailing by buying the Mill Liquorsave bottlestore chain.
The Papakura-based company, which claims annual sales in excess of $300 million, will pay an undisclosed amount for the 35-store Mill chain in a deal expected to settle in the middle of the year, Independent said in a statement.
The liquor company took a swipe at its rivals, saying those with retail arms refuse to stock competitors' brands, which is limiting competition.
"We've experienced this first hand; it's anti-competitive and should be challenged," Independent chief executive Julian Davidson said.
"We relish competition, and we want customers to walk in to their local Mill store and find exactly what they are looking for, whether it's an Independent Liquor product or one of our competitors'."
The step into retail comes after Independent launched its boutique beer brand, Boundary Road, in 2011 to add to its dominance in the local ready-to-drink market, with brands including Woodstock Bourbon and Vodka Cruisers.
New Plymouth-based Mill was owned by Christopher and Nyall Simkin, according to the Companies Office.
Asahi bought Independent Liquor, trading as Flavoured Beverages Group Holdings, in 2011 when it was on a spending spree having built up a $6 billion war chest.
It has since filed papers in the Federal Court in Melbourne claiming it was misled over Independent's earnings and paid too much as a result.
The Mill will be run as a standalone business led by Jeremy Levingston, and Independent is looking at franchising the chain and refurbishing the existing 35 stores.
The rival Liquor King 40-store chain, 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.