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Beyond the Bale : March 2015
14 OFF FARM • AWI’s Key Account Managers (KAMs) around the world, work on behalf of Australian woolgrowers, to build and maintain relationships with significant industry stakeholders and inspire them to work with Australian wool. • Alex Lai from AWI’s office in Hong Kong has been selected as the 2014 KAM of the Year, for excelling at developing direct business relationships with global brands, retailers, textile manufacturers and fashion designers, and demonstrating leadership within the Hong Kong and India teams. Establishing and maintaining strong and healthy relationships with important textile partners including Woolmark licensees is vital for AWI in its promotion of Australian wool to global markets. To this end, AWI has Key Account Managers (KAMs) strategically located across key markets in Asia, Europe and the Americas. Alex Lai from AWI’s office in Hong Kong has been selected by AWI’s senior management as 2014 KAM of the Year, based on an assessment of each KAM’s performance and leadership qualities. Beyond the Bale caught up with Alex to find out about his work and what he loves most about his job. WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT ROLE AT AWI? I have been at AWI for more than 10 years, firstly at the Head Office in Sydney, but most of my time has been as Country Manager for Hong Kong which also involving overseeing AWI business in Taiwan and south China. During 2013 and early 2014, I was Acting Country Manager in India, and at the moment, I’m also Acting Operations Manager for China. AWI’s Hong Kong office is ideally located to play an important role in increasing the global demand for Australian Merino wool. As the gateway for southern and eastern Chinese wool processors and manufacturers, Hong Kong is one of the world’s major knitwear exporters and a global hub for sourcing wool garments particularly for the major US and European brands. HOW DO YOU HELP INCREASE THE DEMAND FOR AUSTRALIAN WOOL? As a KAM, I work with the region’s key accounts in the apparel trade – large and important companies – to get Australian Merino wool into their seasonal collections, and increase consumers’ awareness of the benefits of Merino wool. The AWI Hong Kong office and I do this in three ways. Firstly, we provide education and training about wool to sales teams and supply chains. Secondly, we develop Merino wool innovations in conjunction with the product development and design teams. Thirdly, we provide marketing support. Our overarching aim is to achieve a better result for Australian woolgrowers by working with all the apparel supply chain from raw materials through to retailers and consumers. WHAT SORT OF MARKETING DO YOU DO IN THE REGION? We provide a variety of marketing support to a range of brands and retailers, either through AWI campaigns or through the companies’ own product launches. It might involve help in providing window displays and point-of-sale material to draw customers’ attention to Merino wool products and emphasise product quality. Or it might involve us providing in-house training about Merino wool to the front- line sales staff of the brands to help them promote Merino wool products to their customers. WHAT DOES PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT INVOLVE? The AWI Hong Kong office is heavily involved in the development of new product innovations. One of the product innovations that AWI Hong Kong helped develop was the Merino Casual collection, which features distinctive textures and finishes, to take advantage of the global trend towards casual-style dressing. (See page 21.) Working with its business partners, AWI begins developing its new product offering a full two seasons before the garments start being sold in the shops. While this might seem a long time, it takes time for products to be developed and marketed, and then for the garments to be ordered, manufactured, transported and shelved. WHAT EDUCATIONAL INITIATIVES ARE YOU INVOLVED IN? We help educate companies and students in the region about Merino wool, regularly holding seminars on technical topics, such as manufacturing systems, as well as promotional topics, such as the benefits of Merino wool. While AWI has traditionally focused training on the clothing and textile trade, we are also promoting Merino wool and the Woolmark brand to a younger generation such as textile students and young fashion designers. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR ROLE? I enjoy working across the whole supply chain, from woolgrowers in Australia – who I have visited many times – through to the apparel trade and retailers in Asia. From my previous 20 years experience in trading wool fibre to topmakers and spinners, I now have the pleasure and honour to bring my wool knowledge to the front lines: key accounts in the apparel trade and then onto consumers. I am very happy to work for Australian woolgrowers, hoping and trying to bring about the best outcome for them. HONG KONG PROMOTING MERINO WOOL IN Alex Lai, AWI Country Manager for Hong Kong, who has been selected as AWI Key Account Manager of 2014.