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Merino New Zealand Socks It To The U.S.A.

John Brakenridge, CEO of Merino NZ, with a pair of SmartWool Socks

More than 12 million Americans will shortly be wearing New Zealand merino socks pursuing their active, outdoor, lifestyle activities. This contract is worth approximately $14 million to New Zealand. Merino New Zealand has just facilitated a three-year contract with the United States-based Smartwool, to supply merino wool, to manufacture 12.5 million pairs of quality socks, for skiers, runners, cyclists, triathletes, hikers and walkers. The United States ski team wears Smartwool socks. John Brakenridge, chief executive of Merino New Zealand, said that this contract was significant for the New Zealand merino industry for several reasons. "We have been able to lock in prices for our growers, for the full three years at a 10-year high. This will allow growers to plan with confidence for the future. "The fibre is at the stronger edge of the clip in the 22 to 24 micron range, an area identified by international consultants, McKinsey & Co., as difficult to market.

This contract could absorb New Zealand's total production of this sector of the merino clip, for these three years and will quickly expand into demand for finer New Zealand merino (18 - 19 microns) for the adventure clothing sector. Marlborough farmer and Merino New Zealand Board member Ron Small says that for merino farmers in such drought and fire ravaged areas such as Marlborough, this contract is extremely good news.

This move into the United States follows the successful launch of New Zealand merino into some of Europe's most exclusive markets. Peter Duke, president of Smartwool, said that after just one hour with Merino New Zealand he knew he had a partner with whom his company would be able to work closely with. John Brakenridge echoes this partnership idea. "Smartwool saw us as having complementary marketing skills, grower infrastructure and innovation whilst they have the product knowledge and huge potential market that will enable both of us to be successful. "Two of the other great advantages are that Smartwool are going to promote their socks with New Zealand merino as the key ingredient, which will give our fibre tremendous exposure in one of the world¹s most exciting niches and they are also looking to introduce a leisure range of clothing using New Zealand merino. "This initial contract could be just the tip of the iceberg. The market segment in which Smartwool operates is dominated by high income, outdoor-loving, consumers. Many in this sector are being introduced to merino for the first time. Until now they have only known synthetics and they are falling in love with natural fibres such as merino," John Brakenridge said.

Further information: John Brakenridge, ph 377-7990; 021-454-607

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