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Beyond the Bale : September 2016
The purchase in July of the Merino wool apparel manufacturer Hedrena by the nation’s largest independent wool broker Australian Wool Network (AWN) has provided the Victoria- based company with an opportunity to grow its retail network domestically with longer-term plans to expand internationally. The strategic synergy between Hedrena and AWN will unlock a wealth of specialised Australian wool industry knowledge all along the supply chain, according to Hedrena CEO Ben Earl. “We saw enormous potential in bringing together our experience under the one umbrella,” he said. “Ultimately we believe AWN acutely understands our business and have the best interests of the Hedrena brand and its loyal customers at heart.” Established in 1992 by Ben’s parents, Hedley and Irena Earl, to value add to their superfine Merino flock at Ocean Grove near Geelong, the business pioneered the next-to-skin base layer market for fine Merino wool. Since those early days, the Earl family has thrived by knitting a high quality base-layer product made from Australian Merino wool, with the company generating an annual turnover of approximately $4 million. Ben and his brother Julian, along with AWN, will now be creating new possibilities beyond the market created by their parents. For AWN, established in 1999 and now marketing in excess of 275,000 bales of wool across Australia for some 8,000 woolgrowers, the acquisition is part of a long-term vision to set up new marketing programs and businesses that deliver value to its wool-growing client base. The purchase of Hedrena follows the purchase in November 2014 of another manufacturer, Hysport, which produces wool garments marketed under the MerinoSnug and Only Merino brands. AWN’s National Marketing Manager Cynthia Jarratt says these acquisitions expand AWN’s strategy of bringing woolgrowers and wool processors closer together, to now extending the company’s KNITTING TOGETHER HEDRENA AND AWN wool marketing services even further, right through to retail and consumers. “It is one of the most exciting developments in the wool industry as it provides a direct pathway for a much larger number of woolgrowers to know what happens to their wool once it leaves the farm,” Cynthia said. “Previously this opportunity was only available to a handful of woolgrowers with specialty/ superior quality wools. The specifications for the wool that we use are much broader meaning that more growers can participate. “AWN’s expansion is providing a future which, although very different from what many of us are used to, is a future that many young woolgrowers are pleased to be a part of. They understand the need to communicate better with our consumers, they understand the digital communication space and how important this is to doing good business, and they know if they want their fibre, wool, to be competitive against all others and achieve the premiums it deserves then we all have to do more and be more actively involved. “I’ve been in the wool industry all my life and have always known that we weren’t just woolgrowers, we were really working in the fashion industry – but that end of the pipeline just seemed so far away. So it’s great to now be actively involved in the production of garments using wool from people who I know have grown the fibre.” Ben says that while next-to-skin products for women in their 40s and 50s have been the core of the Hedrena business, and this will continue, the aim is to reach all generations of people and attract more men to fine wool. “The goal is to design with the family in mind. We would ideally like to see designs in store that specifically appeal to both mothers and daughters, fathers and sons alike,” he said. “Hedrena has a core focus providing contemporary, minimalist designs for layering travel and everyday wear. This focus requires some out of the box thinking to ensure we offer a range, fit and design to meet customer needs. We released a selection of activewear garments for this winter as part of our ongoing plan to deliver fresh new designs with each season. “We have plans to open a new store in the heart of Sydney's CBD later this year. Our long-term plans are to expand to the Northern Hemisphere. “Hedrena places great value on being a Woolmark licensee,” Ben adds. “The Woolmark logo represents an independent quality certification that is internationally recognised and it provides a strong connection to the Australian wool industry. It's an integral part of our current business and future plans.” MORE INFORMATION Hedrena’s online store is available at www.hedrena.com.au. Its current retail stores are in Melbourne CBD, Malvern, Geelong, Sydney CBD, St Ives and Adelaide. www.woolnetwork.com.au AWN managing director John Colley and Hedrena CEO Ben Earl will forge new opportunities in wool for Australian woolgrowers. 22 OFF FARM
In the Shops - September 2016