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Beyond the Bale : April May 2009
8 creAting deMAnd Merino PerforM™ takes on the coMPetition “a s soon as we brand a garment line with Merino, the sales improve”: these words from a european outdoor brand at a recent international trade fair are proof of Australian Merino wool’s appeal to the fast-growing global sports and active wear segments. As more and more sports and outdoor brands introduce Merino to their collections, the message from wool to its segment competitor, synthetic fibres, is a simple one: ‘watch your backs’. “the good news for Australian woolgrowers is that this is all new demand for wool – the result of new markets opening, new products being developed, and new sales being generated,” says AWi’s general manager of product development and commercialisation Jimmy Jackson. the hero of this story is Merino Perform™, AWi’s new range of next-to-skin performance fabrics. Made from extrafine Merino (17 to 19.5 micron), Merino Perform™ fabrics are the centrepiece of a global partnership between AWi and some of the world’s best circular knitters. the supply chain currently includes market-leading companies in Australia, china, europe, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Merino Perform™ is the fruit of development work by AWi and the Woolmark company, over several years, to introduce Merino to the sports and outdoor arena. Launched in January this year at three consecutive sport/outdoor trade exhibitions – Outdoor retailer in Salt Lake city, PgA golf show in Orlando and iSPO in Munich, germany (which just happens to be the biggest in the world, with about 2,000 exhibitors) – Merino Perform™ is taking the sportswear world by storm. the MerinoPerform™ program, which has two key components – ‘next-to-Skin’ and ‘Advantage’ (formerly ‘Sportwool’) – drew accolades from the brands, retailers and manufacturers at each of the trade shows. there is now much industry excitement about the potential of Merino Perform™, particularly as AWi plans to grow it in terms of volume and new product segments such as seamless knitwear, second layers, socks, base layers and more. Jimmy says it is important to note that wool’s burgeoning popularity in the sports/ outdoor apparel market is not just a ‘trade race’ or a one-off ‘spike in the curve’, but rather a clear sign that consumers are beginning to appreciate wool’s benefits as a top performance fibre. “it is a well-known fact that wool – naturally – has all the properties the synthetic fibre industry is trying to emulate,” Jimmy says. “compared with other fibres, wool offers unrivalled moisture and vapour management, insulation, odour resistance and softness; properties which are especially relevant to the sports and outdoor segment.” the commericalisation of Merino Perform™ has also had a (surprising) helping hand from nature. this winter’s record cold temperatures and snow falls have driven up sales of winter sports and outdoor products, bucking the trend of a decline in other apparel product groups. “this presents a real opportunity for April – May 2009 Beyond the Bale AWi in terms of the next stage of Merino Perform™ development,” Jimmy says. “Striking while the iron is hot, AWi has already commenced product development in new segments that will be included in the Merino Perform™ umbrella brand.” elsewhere, AWi is keeping a watchful eye on another growth segment – youth and street/board brands – which is showing early signs of a wool conversion. Merino as a PerforMance fiBre l On a molecular level, Merino is naturally efficient at dispersing moisture vapour and resisting odour. l Merino provides superior insulation and breathability to similar garments made from alternative fibres, promoting a comfortable core body temperature in most climates and weather conditions. l Soft and fine, Merino is a pleasure to wear next to the skin, and moves seamlessly with the body during activity. sPorts/oUtDoor BranDs that LoVe aUstraLian Merino l The North Face (US) l Columbia Sportswear Company (Australia) l Macpac (New Zealand) l Kathmandu (Australia) l Snowgum (Australia) l Mammut (Switzerland) l Vaude Sport (Germany) l Eagle Sportswear (Canada) l Montane Featherlite Clothing (UK) l Rapha Cycling Wear (UK)
February March 2009
June August 2009