Graham Clark, Director of Marketing, British Wool explains why global expansion will benefit UK wool producers
British Wool is a farming co-operative. What value does this add for a producer?
Farming co-operatives provide strength in numbers, they’re about supporting the whole industry, at British Wool this means we take all types of wool from any producer no matter the size. We want to see our industry succeed in the long term, so it’s not just about pocketing a quick payment. We are relentlessly finding markets and new opportunities for every type of wool, no matter which part of the UK it comes from, or how much there is. Everything we do is designed to increase the payments for all wool producers, not just a few. We’re doing more to market British wool than any other organisation in the UK – our expansion into China is a good example of this.
How big is the wool market in China?
In a word, huge! China processes 70-80 per cent of all wool in the world. Around 55 per cent stays in China, used in products there, which also makes the Chinese consumer the largest consumer of wool products in the world. Historically most wool products manufactured in China were exported to the northern hemisphere so this is a real reflection of the huge increase in wealthy Chinese consumers. It’s also the major reason the Chinese market is so attractive to Western companies and brands like British Wool – consumers there love British heritage and provenance and we have the contacts, knowledge and expertise to exploit new opportunities, working with downstream partners to increase business.
What is British Wool’s approach in China?
Our approach is to identify strategically attractive partners, building long-term relationships and supporting the development of unique British wool collections in their respective product categories. From there, we will work together and add value through our sales and marketing activities, including the creation of brand and marketing collateral, product expertise, social media exposure, promotions and many other activities as the business and product ranges evolve.
We launched our licensee scheme a year ago in China, this traces the origin of the wool through the various manufacturing processes right back to the wool merchants. This ensures we’re working with companies using high levels of British wool in their products.
Have there been any early successes?
We launched a British Wool bedding collection last September with a leading Chinese manufacturer and this range will be developed further moving into 2020 and beyond. We’re also working with one of the largest cloth manufacturers in the world on a unique British wool collection with a planned launch of Autumn/Winter 2020. There are several other opportunities in the pipeline, covering a range of different products.
What is the ultimate goal?
All our efforts are focused on maximising the returns we deliver to our producers for their wool. Finding new demand for British wool in China can only improve prices and therefore the returns for our registered producers.