Stephen Dill at the Wools of New Zealand display at Flooring Xtra in Warkworth.
Kaipara Hills sheep farmer Stephen Dill will soon have the satisfaction of seeing carpets manufactured using his wool sold in local retail stores, following a landmark deal that brings fresh hope to a struggling industry.
Mr Dill is one of around 730 shareholders in Wools of New Zealand (WNZ) – a company that puts New Zealand farmers in control of the manufacturing and distribution of their own wool products.
Last month, WNZ concluded an agreement with Flooring Xtra to sell its carpets through Flooring Xtras 61 retail stores and other independent stores throughout New Zealand.
It’s the first time a grower-owned New Zealand carpet brand has supplied a finished product to the New Zealand market.
New Zealand wool prices have been flat for almost a decade, with cash offered to farmers for wool barely covering the cost of production, if that.
Mr Dill says he joined WNZ about five years ago after realising his previous method of selling wool was unsustainable.
He says the problem with the traditional model is that there are too many middle men. A farmer might sell wool to a company, which on-sells it to another company for export, which on-sells it again to another wholesaler, who on-sells it yet again to a manufacturer – with each party in the chain extracting a fee.
“There’s not a lot of margin in wool. All of a sudden you go from a product that looks reasonably profitable to a product you are not making money on at all,” Mr Dill says.
WNZ, on the other hand, takes control of the supply chain. Such as organising the manufacture of its wool into carpets in a factory in Turkey, and then overseeing the marketing and distribution of those carpets around the world.
“We are controlling everything right to the retail shop door,” Mr Dill says.
Meanwhile, WNZ chief executive John McWhirter says the deal with Flooring Xtra and other New Zealand retailers is a win-win for both farmers and consumers.
He says Kiwis now have a choice between a synthetic carpet or a competitively priced natural product direct from WNZ’s farmer-grower shareholders.
Formerly, a key barrier to increasing the sales of wool carpets was their much higher price, but now a wool carpet might cost only 5 per cent more.
“Our goal is to grow the consumption of wool in the market by making wool carpet affordable to the majority of Kiwis,” Mr McWhirter says.
“Wool is one of the safest, sustainable and most eco-friendly carpet fibres available.”
He adds that wool is 100 per cent renewable, bio-degradable and has a carbon footprint 14 times lower than synthetic.
“It’s environmental attributes are increasingly in step with consumer and government expectations,” he says.
Why choose a wool carpet?
• Warm in winter/cool in summer
• Resilient to stains
• Resistant to fire
• Good noise insulator