Wool's got nothing to fear from growth of online buying of clothes

Trend to buying online no threat to wool clothing sales says AWI

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IT'S HERE TO STAY: Australian Wool Innovation's Laura Armstrong said the trend to buying clothes online would continue to grow and wool had to position itself to take full advantage.

IT'S HERE TO STAY: Australian Wool Innovation's Laura Armstrong said the trend to buying clothes online would continue to grow and wool had to position itself to take full advantage.

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Australian Wool Innovation says the growth of online selling of clothes is an opportunity for Merino wool.

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The growing shift to buying clothes online "opens 100 more doors" for Merino wool, says Australian Wool Innovation's general manager of marketing communications, Laura Armstrong.

Online selling has boosted the "fast fashion" industry where consumers buy cheap, usually synthetic clothes which they typically only wear a few times.

But Ms Armstrong said this trend was no threat to Merino wool which was "playing" in the top end of the market.

She said AWI was capitalising on the trend to internet sales through its e-tailer partnership strategy.

The company had developed media, merchandising and content programs with a network of high-end e-tailers including Farfetch.com, Net-a-Porter, T Mall in China and Amazon in the US.

Most recently AWI partnered with influential e-commerce platform, Alibaba's TMALL, to promote Australian Merino wool via the inaugural "digital Wool Week" launched in China last September.

The online wool pavilion brought together more than 100 brands with more than 10,000 products in a week-long promotion that provided consumers education on wool's benefits and provenance which generated 1.5 million unique visits to the landing page.

Ms Armstrong said while online selling meant shoppers couldn't feel the softness and quality of garments before buying, the opportunities offered by online sales far outweighed the loss of this tactile experience.

"Our recent results show that brands who promote their items as wool in the product descriptor are actually converting to a sale faster than similar products who don't."

She said the shift to online shopping meant consumers were more likely to compare products and research before purchasing, therefore e-commerce giants were prioritising ways to comprehensively communicate product attributes such as fibre content and fabric performance, Ms Armstrong said.

"It's no good seeing it (online selling) as a threat, it's an opportunity, the world is moving that way and there is no way you can fight against it.

"Our job is to identify the opportunities, first and foremost. First you've got the exposure, one online store can reach people all around the world versus a bricks and mortar store which only reaches the foot traffic that goes past.

"So we genuinely don't see the shift to online as an issue. It just opens 100 more doors for us, it makes it much easier to run a global strategy from the office."

Ms Armstrong said dodgy and fake claims about the quality of clothes online were also less likely with wool clothing because the brands and retailers selling them were operating in the high-end of the market.

But not everybody in the wool trade is convinced that online selling is good for wool

Wes McNaughton, trading manager at wool buyer and exporter, Fox & Lillie, said he didn't think internet selling was helping wool, not at the moment anyhow.

He said with the death of more and more retail outlets wool was losing its ability to attract people through the feel of the product.

Everybody seemed to be buying online based on pictures these days, he said, and were often disappointed when they received the clothes in the mail.

"I think that in the long run it will help wool because people will realise they actually need to touch the stuff and will work work out that natural fibres have a better handle," he said.

He said every producer of synthetic fibre was trying to make their product look and behave more like wool.

But the world was also waking up to the fact these synthetic garments shed microfibres every time they were washed and a lot of this plastic was polluting the oceans along with fish and other sea creatures.

The story Wool's got nothing to fear from growth of online buying of clothes first appeared on Farm Online.

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