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Beyond the Bale : March 2018
Each year staff from AWI’s head office in Sydney lead a delegation (including an Australian woolgrower and a researcher) to the northern hemisphere, where it informs key brands, retailers, retail associations, welfare groups and NGOs about Australian wool and the high standard of on-farm animal welfare practices. AWI’s General Manager of Corporate Affairs & International Market Access, Peta Slack-Smith, who has led these delegations since 2009, says the feedback from northern hemisphere markets is that consumers’ and brand’s/retailers’ perception of wool is changing significantly for the better, with the result that demand for the fibre is growing. In Episode 26 of AWI’s The Yarn podcast – which features Peta’s report from the delegation’s visit to the USA – you can hear from major retailers and their industry associations about why wool is increasingly winning in this vital global market. Below are a few quotes from some key US stakeholders featured in the podcast. To hear the full 23-minute podcast, visit www.wool.com/podcast. JANE POTTER Senior sustainability and procurement manager, US brand Theory “We love wool here in America. Our new range of 17.5 -micron wool apparel has been a really successful program for us right off the bat. We’ve had this wool in store for about a year and our sales have been amazing. I think that this has a lot to do with the micron, which is an upgrade from what we were offering before as it feels more luxurious and there is a little bit of stretch in there. People really respond to it and love the feel. “We offer wool all year round. It’s summer time here right now and everyone’s wearing this fabulous super-lightweight wool suit. We’re not just using wool for suiting though; we do dresses, we have bomber jackets, tailored pants, sleeveless tops – so we really find it a great fabric to work into all different categories. “Understanding the traceability of where the fibre is from is very important, not only for our company but our customers are so interested in this story. It makes it personal and allows us to connect with the entire supply chain. It’s not that we don’t trust where it’s coming from, but we really want to understand and contribute to a positive supply chain.” DR PETER JAMES Animal science researcher, University of Queensland “The manufacturers and people in the fashion industry that we spoke to understand the qualities of wool and they really want to use it, but in today’s market it’s all about sustainability and good animal welfare practices regardless of how good the fibre is. “Importantly, there’s competition out there. People are trying to use wool in a way that’s better than their competitors and they’re very interested in the image of wool and that it is seen as a sustainable product.” The demand for Australian Merino wool in the USA has increased, especially in the past couple of years, with brands expanding their use of the fibre in new ranges and sectors – and many other brands ‘discovering wool’ and using it for the first time. However it’s important that the Australian wool industry continues to inform the market about the fibre’s on-farm provenance. STEVE LAMAR Executive Vice President, American Apparel & Footwear Association “Wool is very popular, and our members want to be able to use wool. But being able to tell the traceability story is important because they have to be able to explain to the people that are buying the finished products, where the materials came from, how it was handled, what processes it went through, whether the animals were well taken care of. If they can’t provide the answers, then the customer might opt to go to a different fibre or different source. “Our message to Australian woolgrowers is to fill out the National Wool Declaration. Increasingly, my members want to see the paperwork all the way to the beginning of the process and it really starts there. The NWD is the foundation of a responsible, sustainable traceability program.” JULIAN VON BIBRA Tasmanian woolgrower “I was overwhelmed by the professionalism of the AWI staff that I met, their commitment to our product and their knowledge of the industry and what we do in Australia. They very much see themselves as part of a really large industry and they have a great commitment and dedication to marketing our wool. “I think as an industry we need to focus heavily on the animal welfare aspect of our farming practices, recognise where our wool is being sold and the fact that animal welfare is going to only get more of an issue as time goes on, along with sustainability and our land management practices.” STEVE GREENWICH Senior sales director for the US market, Italian spinner Tollegno “Right now, wool is the 'new fibre' of the US market. The region is really starting to finally understand that wool is probably the most technical fibre out there. We’re seeing Australian wool product diversifying into companies such as Theory, J.Crew, Aritzia, Canada Goose – all through North America and Canada. It’s new and exciting times. “Wool has been traditionally used in sportswear and suiting in the US, but now the athleisure market is opening up a whole new customer base. I never thought I would see Nike or adidas using wool, but it’s happening. Wool is also being brought back into the uniform industry, with companies such as United Airlines and Delta.” JULIE HUGHES President, US Fashion Industry Association “Sustainability and traceability, those are two of the big issues this year. In our benchmarking survey of members (brands and retailers) that came out this summer, 100% of respondents said that they are currently auditing and reviewing their Tier One suppliers (garment factories). “What our members are looking for though is how to improve the traceability and information available from Tier Two suppliers and back through the supply chain. So we’re really excited about the information that’s being provided to us about what’s happening on the farm in Australia – regarding both quality and animal husbandry practices – because that’s what our members want to plug into.” 64 MARKET INTELLIGENCE NEW DEMAND FOR WOOL IN THE USA
In the Shops - March 2018