Residents have expressed concerns about the development of a Dan Murphy’s store at 63 Central Springs Road opposite the Daylesford Pool. Last week’s article in the Wombat Post was widely discussed and drew a range of comments and concerns on social media.
The proposed site is close to the pool, the kindergarten and the Daylesford Primary School and there are concerns that children will be exposed to daily alcohol advertising.
Chain stores like Dan Murphy’s and McDonalds also have the potential to change the historic and unique character of the town into just another suburban shopping complex.
There are broader issues about the Endeavour Group, which owns Dan Murphy’s. Endeavour is a spin off created in 2021 from the merger of Woolworths liquor assets and the hotels and pokies empire developed by the Bruce Mathieson Group (BMG). After Endeavour was floated, Woolworths and Mathieson retained about 15 percent each of Endeavour. It is a highly profitable, giant corporation with a market capitalisation of $14.08 billion.
The Endeavour Group has a stable of brands. They include the former Woolworths liquor retailing businesses including BWS and Dan Murphy’s. It also owns the online liquor delivery service Jimmy Brings, the ALH hotels group, Cellar Masters, Langton’s, Shorty’s Liquor and Pinnacle Drinks.
The Dan Murphy ‘s division of Endeavour has 248 stores operating across Australia with 74 in Victoria.
The Endeavour Group also has over 12,000 poker machines at around 300 venues across Australia. Daylesford currently has 25 poker machines at The Royal Hotel. Expenditure on pokies at the Royal last year was reportedly $1.6 million.
Setting aside restaurants, Daylesford already has seven liquor sales venues within 500 metres of Vincent Street including hotels, wine shops, bottle shops and retail liquor outlets . There is another development for a liquor outlet at 24 Vincent Street.
Cellarbrations and Liquorland are the major competitors for a potential Dan Murphy’s store. Cellarbrations is franchise model with local independent operators with over 700 stores nationally. It is controlled by Metcash through ALM (Australian Liquor Marketers). ALM owns Cellarbrations, Bottle O, IGA liquor, Duncans Liquor, Thirsty Camel, Big Bargain Liquor, Porters Liquor and Merchants Liquor. Liquorland is owned by Coles (Wesfarmers).
The Endeavour Group, and Dan Murphy’s, has a mixed reputation. It’s online liquor delivery service, Jimmy Brings, is being investigated for liquor law breaches in New South Wales after a 49 year old man died in Bondi in 2018 after reportedly placing around 300 orders for several bottles of alcohol at a time over three years.
Woolworths experienced a major backlash when it sought to open a Dan Murphy’s megastore in Darwin. The store was near three dry indigenous communities on Darwin airport land. Given the fierce opposition, Woolworth’s withdrew the proposal but has refused to rule out a further development through its subsidiary Endeavour Group.
Alcohol has both benefits and harms. The benefits are mostly the personal and social experience alcohol brings. There was a view that drinking moderately might result in health benefits. But recent research shows there are in fact few if any health benefits and drinking too much is associated with social and health harm, including domestic violence. Health authorities now recommend drinking no more than an average of 10 standard drinks of alcohol per week and no more than four in any one day.
On average Australians drink more alcohol than is good for them. One in four people drink more than what is recommended. But worse than that, alcohol use is very skewed. About a fifth of people don’t drink at all and over 50 percent of Australian alcohol consumption is by 10 percent of the population at 8 standard drinks a day (more than a bottle of wine). This group can expect significantly increased health problems and reduced life expectancy. And alcohol abuse is worse in regional and country areas.
Increasingly companies like Endeavour and Dan Murphy’s face pressures from investors and regulators to meet environmental, social and governance standards. The argument that harm minimisation is an individual responsibility doesn’t wash any longer and investors are not keen to be associated with companies that don’t act responsibly. This includes harm minimisation from gambling and alcohol. Maximising short term profits at the cost of corporate responsibility is increasingly a risky strategy.
Few in the community want prohibition. But the community does want a responsible and planned approach to alcohol sales that includes limiting the number of outlets, store size, hours, advertising, position and terms of service that protect people from harm – particularly vulnerable groups, including young people, gamblers and people with drinking problems. This is best done when liquor outlets have strong connections and engagement with the community. Engagement places checks and balances on those who sell alcohol, rather than being simply profit driven.