Marketing the natural story of wool

29 March 2012

Using a simple trace-back through the wool pipeline, The Woolmark Company outdoor apparel retail partner Snowgum has been able to use the on-farm story of woolgrowing to help sell wool at retail. While the result was surprisingly good, the process was refreshingly simple.

Liz and Ross Sherlock with daughter Helena, wearing Snowgum apparel amongst their wool from which the apparel was manufactured
Liz and Ross Sherlock with daughter Helena, wearing Snowgum apparel amongst their wool from which the apparel was manufactured.

Snowgum General Manager Ross Elliott has worked with The Woolmark Company for some years, so when planning Snowgum’s latest catalogue he rang The Woolmark Company to enquire how his company could provide recognition to the woolgrowers that supplied the wool for Snowgum’s garments.

“We were keen to link our garments back to the natural landscape in which the fibre is grown, the families and of course the Merinos that make it all possible,” Mr Elliott said.
“Snowgum is proudly Australian and we champion the fact we use 100 per cent Australian Merino wool wherever and whenever we can.”

Through Snowgum’s vertical manufacturer, Mr Elliott was able to obtain the Australian Wool Testing Authority (AWTA) Combined Certificates for the wool lots purchased for Snowgum’s garments. These certificates generally provide vital processing information for the manufacturer, including micron, CV, lot weights and also the brand ID. From this information The Woolmark Company was able to help track down the broker who sold the wool, who in turn knows the woolgrower.

In this case a portion of the wool sold at auction was through Cooma-based woolbroker Gordon Litchfield. He was contacted and in turn made contact with his clients, Ross and Liz Sherlock, from “Kia Ora”, Cooma, NSW.

As a noted amateur photographer Mr Litchfield visited the Sherlocks during shearing and took some wonderful photographs of Mr Sherlock, his flock and the bright white wool grown on the property.

“It was a privilege to be able to offer this extra service to a client I have been working with for many years,” Mr Litchfield said. “Certainly a rewarding experience for both of us, and one that has worked out well I think.”

Next, The Woolmark Company communications manager Marius Cuming compiled a short story for the Snowgum Winter 2011 Catalogue. After a phone conversation with Mr Sherlock, it didn’t take long to realise the Sherlocks, and their 5000-head Merino flock were natural advocates for the fibre they produce.

With snow gum trees native to the high country property and Merinos thriving in temperatures from -12 degrees Celsius in the winter and 40 degrees Celsius in the summer, the story of Merino wool amongst the snow gums nearly wrote itself.

The Sherlocks are the fourth generation of the family to live at ‘Kia Ora’, an 1800 hectare property which has been in the family for more than 100 years.

“Our sheep do really well up here,” Mr Sherlock said.  “The Australian Merino is an amazing animal and has adapted so perfectly to every Australian landscape, including this property which I am pleased to say has plenty of snow gums on it as well as manna and ribbon gums.

“I left school when I was 16 to come home and help run the farm; it has been my life. I love animals and I like the opportunity to be my own boss and improve the land. I love it here and it’s great to be part of an industry so in tune with nature.”

The Sherlocks are now featured in the 2011 Snowgum catalogue (accompanied by Mr Litchfield’s photos) – an example of how a simple idea can be realised through The Woolmark Company and supply chain partners working together.

The next step for Snowgum is to identify more woolgrowers from across the country who grow the wool for their products. In future, these growers and their stories are planned to be a key feature on their website.

The Woolmark Company CEO Stuart McCullough said farmers, their sheep and the natural environment they live in were all great marketing tools for Australian wool.

“This exercise was remarkably effective and we are very fortunate to have passionate woolgrowers and brokers willing to help connect the marketing story,” Mr McCulough said.

“The key to this particular exercise was to keep it simple. It was a matter of The Woolmark Company helping introduce one end of the supply chain to the other. And now proven effective, this is a value-add service The Woolmark Company can offer licensees and retail partners who specifically preference Australian wool. The AWTA Certificates back up the story.”

All Woolmark marketing programs – including the Merino. No Finer Feeling, Campaign for Wool and the China Luxury Market campaigns – firmly link products available at retail to the natural fibre source.

More information:

Stephen Feighan - The Woolmark Company  +(61) 2 2 8295 3107