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NZ Wool Strikes Back With Innovation

NZ Wool Strikes Back With Innovation

Auckland, June 18, 2003 -- International buyers have snapped up trial orders for the whitest, cleanest wool yet and for a modified wool fibre that takes up dye super fast. The new products were launched by New Zealand wool technologies patent holders and exporters at the world’s two most important carpet fairs.

An export network group, comprising seven companies, banded together with support from Trade New Zealand to offer first exposure of new products at the cutting-edge of technology to the world’s floor coverings industry at Domotex in Hanover, Germany and Surfaces, in Las Vegas, USA earlier in the year.

Wool Interiors Limited, a joint venture between Wools of New Zealand and Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand (WRONZ), joined with representatives from commercial technology partners to showcase New Zealand’s wool industry to the main players in the carpet industry.

Products such as Glacial wool and Strike! are attracting attention. Glacial wool is cleaner, brighter and whiter than conventionally scoured wool, as a result of patented scouring technology developed by WRONZ. It is especially suitable for top-end carpets and rugs in natural white and pale pastels that have previously not been obtainable with most conventionally scoured wools.

Strike! is wool treated in the scour so that it will take up dyes more readily and evenly than conventional wool. It was also developed by WRONZ, to ensure that wool can compete with synthetic fibres in the carpet printing sector.

Al Ross, the export network group Project Manager and Manager Market Development for Wools of New Zealand, says interest from both fairs has been strong and lots of products are being trialed and sampled.

“Deals aren’t done on the day, or on the stand, that’s not how it works,” Ross says. “Being represented at these trade fairs and showing new products is part of being seen as a credible player in the market. To have new products picked up in a very mature market, which is not in the best shape at the moment, is quite an achievement. The European market is sluggish, as is the US.

“The key industry players are at these trade fairs. So it’s a place to go to network and you can make contact with 100 companies in two days. If you had to visit them one-by-one and have the same level of contact, it would take three or four months.”

Ross says participating in the fairs is expensive and wouldn’t have been possible for many of the companies involved without support from Trade New Zealand.

At Domotex in Hanover, 40,200 trade professionals – including architects and interior designers, as well as carpet manufacturers, installers and retailers – attended and there were 1062 exhibitors. A record of more than 40,000 people attended Surfaces, which is regarded as the most important event in the US floor covering industry.

Trade New Zealand Sector Specialist Wool and Fibre, Maria Woods, says the export network group created a strong presence at both fairs and comments about the products were encouraging. The seven companies involved were Wool Interiors Limited, New Zealand Wool Services International, H Dawson Wool NZ, ADM Group, Fibretech NZ, Linclab and Primary Wool Co-Operative.

“This group’s collaborative export strategy has led to new opportunities and potentially new markets. The export network combines established players in wool marketing, research and development, and processing with wool and fibre exporters. They are keen to leverage off each other as they develop new technologies and products that are competitive on the global front. This provides the audience with a highly innovative, compelling New Zealand wool story.”

Woods says Trade New Zealand has been working closely with the carpet wool sector, including industry organisations and private companies, for the past two years to support the export market of the whole sector and highlight the strengths of New Zealand technologies. More profile-raising international showings are being planned by the industry, in conjunction with Trade New Zealand.

State of the market

While wool production has declined in all the main producing countries, New Zealand remains the second largest producer and exporter after Australia. The market for New Zealand wool is mainly carpets and the main customers are in New Zealand, Australia, western Europe and the USA. New Zealand carpet wool exports are worth about $300 million annually.

The biggest competitor to wool in the carpet market is high-tech synthetics and Ross says the lines between wool and synthetic fibres get finer and finer as technology develops in each area.

“New Zealand’s wool has two competitors – synthetics and other wools. Nylon and polypropylene are the two strongest synthetics and our wool competes by being in a very up market, high-end position and by being beautifully made and presented. The performance of synthetics in carpet is right up there, so we trade on wool’s naturalness, the edges we have on performance and our advances in technology.

“Competing wool producing countries don’t have a strong branding programme like we have with the Fernmark (Wools of New Zealand brand) that stimulates international demand for New Zealand wool and wool products. It was amazing to see the branding at those trade shows, there was nothing else like it and it was very powerful.”


Comments from participants at Surfaces:

Marc Huppert, owner of Images Floor Covering – a partner retailer “I was extremely impressed by the wool area. Glacial wool is one of the products that really caught my eye. A lot of my customers want white carpet and, until now, they could not get it in wool. I was amazed by the quality and whiteness of the wool without damage to the fibre. It is product I’m anxious to have in my store.” Stewart Hay, president of Glen Eden Wool Carpet “This show was fantastic. We had tremendous response to our Wools of New Zealand brand Michael Graves Collection, with customers willing to invest in the full programme. Glacial wool was another success. Everyone loved the whiteness of the fibre and the clarity with which it accepts dyes. Almost everyone who saw it bought it.” Bruce Bell, president of Bellbridge Carpets “Surfaces was better than we expected. It just goes to show that at the high end of the market, retailers are really committed to the long-term despite the softer market. Consumers seem to be turning their focus towards home and placing greater value on family. Because of this, they are willing to spend more on nice things. The response we received at market shows that retailers are responding to this trend by increasing their wool offerings.”

Bob Ball, executive vice president, Couristan “This is one of the best shows we’ve ever had. I think a lot of the success is driven by the fact that retailers have been slow in attending shows over the past two years (due to 9/11 and the slow economy) and are now finally coming out. They need new product and are excited about what they see.”

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