Amidst cessation of production, manufacturing and bricks & mortar retail activity, there’s no denying that the Covid-19 has blanketed entire apparel and textiles supply chain in doom and gloom while the industry adapts to escalating containment efforts. While the outlooks does seem bleak, it’s also in times of crises like this that we see some brands and companies stepping up positively.
The wool industry faces its own set of unique challenges in the face of Covid-19 pandemic. Here, The Woolmark Company Managing Director, Stuart McCullough, breaks down the ways the Australian wool industry is being affected and how The Woolmark Company is providing support to the industry during this unprecedented time.
How big of a challenge is Covid-19 to the wool industry?
It’s an ever-changing situation. This is mainly due to price degradation; however we also witness demand deterioration as stores close and people are staying home. Every event presents its own unique challenges. Covid-19 is unlike anything that we have experienced in our lifetime. It presents different challenges to drought and fire.
Our highest concern at the moment is the issue of harvesting wool from sheep for those woolgrowers who would normally be performing shearing this time of the year. Shearing is essential from both an animal welfare and livelihood point of view. The wool industry is heavily dependent on wool being removed; without which no fibre available to the supply chain. At this stage, we have been informed shearing remains an essential service and will ensure we communicate best practice regarding hygiene and social distancing in the shearing shed for travelling shearing teams, contractors and woolgrowers.
With many textile factories already shutdown, will there be an increased demand for wool now that synthetics will be less available?
We assume synthetics will be similarly affected, so we shouldn’t see a significant increase or decrease in demand for one fibre over the other. What concerns us mostly is the complete shutdown of the Italian mills which are class leaders and top of the fashion triangle and the major brand influencers of wool fashion.
What is the biggest effect that Italy is having on the wool industry right now?
Currently we have less visibility over Italian production due to the uncertainty of the virus. Italian operators generally run a pretty lengthy supply inventory so stock on hand which will be immediately available to them once the lockdown ceases there. They also tend to manufacture well in advance as design and fashion is often set six months prior to sale.
Will the Australian wool farmers survive financially this year? How are they making it?
Yes. Australian wool growers will definitely survive. They are a resilient bunch of business people and good at managing the tough issues that are thrown at them regularly. The drought and the effects of that drought on stock numbers and bank accounts continues to be the main hurdle for recovery of the sheep and wool production. Covid-19 has affected some farmers’ incomes for those having to sell into a market that is guideless at present, but prices are relatively okay for the moment. If we get a good rainfall prior to end of Autumn, then wool and sheep meat income should be strong for the second half of this year. This is all given that Coronavirus doesn’t shut down our auction markets, which is a possibility and currently being discussed.
If physical auctions do shut down, the WoolQ platform can support – it’s a secure online platform where woolgrowers, classers, brokers, buyers, manufacturers, and ultimately brands, can access digital tools to support all stages of the wool-growing and selling cycle.
How The Woolmark Company is supporting?
At this time of global uncertainty, uniting with stakeholders in pursuit of a common cause becomes increasingly important. Our commitment to support designers, brands and retailer partners has not waivered. The Woolmark Company’s support is available in the below areas:
- Supply chain support and troubleshooting any wool production and innovation issues
- Providing free online training and education via the Woolmark Learning Centre
- Access to our expert mentoring series through webinar
- Free access to our asset bank of content including imagery and video to help market products in a cost-effective way
- Woolmark Licence subscription fees for all current licensees paused for the next six months to ensure that you can continue to deliver world class quality garments
- Continue to support the incredible creative from our designer network, promoting collections to our global audience of one million followers.