The sale of woollen products these days is invariably less as compared to the times when wool was the only product available in the country. According to various woollen industry experts, wool has always been prioritised by the consumers in their 30s and 40s, but the youth in the country are hardly aware of the benefits of wool and prefer other warm fabrics. But, of late, the trend seems to be changing. “The woollen market scenario is promising all across the globe. There are a couple of things that are happening with wool; it is very much back in fashion at the moment. We have seen that in the last couple of seasons and even now, we are seeing more and more wool being merchandised. Also, the prices are really quite high,” says Stuart McCullough, CEO, Australian Wool Innovation.
Wool is definitely a viable product for India, though it is still quite a formal market. The Indian market has not really opened itself up to casualisation against the likes of USA, Europe, etc. It is only where you find casual wear as a part of work-routine that you will find the visibility of wool. The Indian market is decently affluent. One needs to market the product in the country rigorously, for which one needs to invest in the product and the market. In today’s time, people have become much more fashion conscious than earlier, which is why consumers still consider buying woollens beneficial as the usage of woollen products is higher mainly in the northern parts of India.
“The fashion conscious people of today like to dress stylishly in winter. Women and young girls, in particular, are more experimental with their looks during this season and want to wear everything from caps to boots to look trendy. Also, with the increase in the budget for shopping, people prefer to buy more and more woollen clothes," says Jessica Sawhney, Designer, Trendy Divva. “In north India, the demand of woollen products shoots up between November and January owing to the extended and extremely cold winters. As a brand, we provide more variety of woollen products to our showrooms in the north," says Harkirat Singh, Managing Director, Woodland.
Wool is primarily sourced from international markets like Russia, Australia, Europe and Germany. The yarns used for the production are mainly cotton, cotton/wool, wool acrylics, angora, merino wool, alpaca, rayon nylon and polyester in varied combinations with each other. The wools that are being preferred this season are viscose and Australia merino wool, which is imported from Australia. Monica Oswal, Executive Director, Monte Carlo, says her brand is using cotton wool, cashmere, silky wool, etc this season. The western European countries are the main importers of raw wool. Besides, 45 per cent and 22 per cent of raw wool is imported by the US and the UK respectively. Most of the world’s apparel wool, however, comes from Australia, which contributes to about 80 per cent of wool used across the world. This season, Monte Carlo has come up with its winter wear range with focus on pullovers, cardigans, sweatshirts, jackets, denims, shirts, trousers, shawls, stoles and thermals. “Woollen and acrylic kurtis and other thick woven fabrics, which are trendy yet comfortable, are popular this season," says Meena Bindra, Chairperson and Founder, BIBA.
Since a major chunk of raw wool comes from Australia, the prices of wool in the international markets play an important role in determining the way prices are to be regulated in India. “The international price of wool, like any other commodity available, is the best way to gauge the pricing of wool for us in India. Hence, the pricing of our products is planned about 8-9 months in advance, giving us enough time to keep it in tune with the market," says Swapan Dutta, President- Retail, Monte Carlo. Consumption wise, the Indian market is the second largest, behind only China, which imports around 70-75 per cent of its wool from Australia, while India imports a meagre 10 per cent. On an average, a wool yarn costs anywhere between ` 800 and ` 1,000 per kilo. Indian brands such as Van Heusen, Monte Carlo and Park Avenue dominate the Indian woollen market, consuming, on an average, about 19.5 microns of fibre. The likes of Monte Carlo sell approximately 15 lakh pieces, while Raymonds, the biggest player in the woollen segment, produces approximately 20 million pieces annually. Of this, about 80 per cent is served in the domestic market and the rest is exported. The price of wool fibre as per the Australian market is around $ 11.68 per kg, which was previously as high as $ 15 per kg. The outlook has improved under these circumstances lately.
The perception of wool in the country has been contrary to what exactly it beholds. The young group in the country is not aware of the importance of the Woolmark logo, while people in their 50s are well acquainted with this brand, which was developed in 1964 and was considered one of the best brands in the world. The Woolmark Association has now reintroduced its logo in a simple form and is trying to re-position it among the best brands and retailers across the globe. In India, they are focusing on supporting manufacturers rather than concentrating on the retailers. “We believe the metro cities will provide us with the best opportunity to reach out to the affluent consumer base in the country. Geographically, we will target the northern and eastern regions for our products," McCullough adds. The logo symbolises apparel wool and gives the consumer a quality assurance. The set-up is primarily involved in the marketing of the brand and nowhere is selling a part of their strategy. The wool is sold in an open auction system. Eighty per cent of the wool is being processed in China and the sight of India being part of this processing set-up is not far-fetched. The channels to be used for marketing will be varied, including billboards, print, cinema, social media and digital media. They will also work with retail partners. “These associations provide complete knowledge and information to the consumer about the importance of wool, which helps the brand in maintaining its quality and durability," Oswal says. The brands all over the globe have welcomed the re-induction of the set-up after a long time. “The Woolmark Association educates consumers for premium quality wool products and meets their demand. It is an initiative that has been taken globally to market wool at the consumer level," Singh of Woodland says. “We are really keen to not only educate the consumers about the brand, but also make them aware of the wool fibre. The youth of the country knows nothing about the brand; this is supposed to be a real fibre education for them” concludes McCullough.
All the processes to give the woollen brand a complete transformation are in place and this will ensure that reaching out to the youth in the country is hassle-free.