Byline: M. McN.
NEW YORK — The goal of the International Wool Secretariat remains the same — increasing consumer demand for wool. But the group will take some new turns this year to meet that objective.
Adrian J. Kloeden, the organization’s new managing director, said the IWS needs to get “as many research and promotion resources to the front lines as we possibly can, and get closer to the consumers.”
Kloeden, making his first U.S. tour since he assumed his post May 8, was interviewed here at offices of the Wool Bureau, the North American arm of the IWS. The IWS is the research and marketing organization for wool growers everywhere but the U.S. Most of the membership is from Australia.
Kloeden succeeds Richard Excell, who left the IWS in January. Kloeden’s appointment coincided with the merging of many functions of the IWS and the Australian Wool Research & Promotion Organization (AWRAP), a separate governmental agency that Kloeden continues to head.
Here are a few of the programs the $200 million IWS budget will cover to promote wool as a year-round fiber:
For the first time in 15 years, the IWS has created a television advertising campaign. Of the $50 million being spent worldwide on the campaign, nearly $7 million has been earmarked for the U.S. market between July 1 and Dec. 31.
Beginning on Labor Day and running through Columbus Day, the IWS will run a consumer campaign with two giant retailers, R.H. Macy and the May Co. While the final details are still being worked out, but the effort will include multiple displays of wool products, direct-mail pieces and newspaper ads featuring the store and products with the Woolmark. The theme of the fall push will be “Casual Weekdays.”
The association is stepping up its effort with mills, apparel manufacturers and retailers to develop machine-washable, wrinkle-free and bulky knit wool products.
“Consumers are changing rapidly, particularly over the past five years,” Kloeden said. “Their value equation is different, as they want value at reasonable prices. The understanding of the consumer and consumer motivation is pretty important for an organization that is going to spend $50 million in advertising.”
Product development, said Kloeden, is paramount to creating a larger awareness of wool. While 55 percent of wool used for apparel is in the women’s segment, lighter-weight wool hasn’t seen huge growth in the U.S. market.
“The men’s wear business has known Cool Wool for a long time, but we need to educate the women’s market that wool can be worn all year,” said Nina Altschiller, IWS advertising and merchandising manager. “As for the retail programs in the fall, we chose May Co. and Macy’s because of their major commitment to the Woolmark in their private label programs. “We also want to emphasize that wool is perfect for casual dressing,” Altschiller added.
“When you see the success of wool products in Europe and Japan, you wonder why this market isn’t as strong,” Kloeden said.
Kloeden said a good portion of that product and consumer focus is the result of the new charges the IWS is levying on firms using the Woolblend and Woolmark trademarks. Use of the marks had been free until this past May, when a $5,000 charge was instituted.
“More than 70 percent of the Woolmark and Woolblend users that used the labels in 1993 have agreed to continue to pay to use it,” Kloeden said. “But those users now demand certain things from us, and rightfully so, such as increased global market information.”
Among the mills, apparel makers and designers that have confirmed their used of the labels in 1995 are Forstmann, Burlington Industries, Carleton Woolen Mills, Donna Karan, Ann Klein and Jones New York.
Wool prices, said Kloeden, look to be an important factor this year.
While prices of raw wool have increased dramatically since hitting a 20th-century low of about $1.50 a pound early last year, they began rising in spring 1994, and Kloeden said prices need to remain in the current $2.50 to $2.80 range for growers to prosper.