SYDNEY — Australia’s largest independent wool broker Australian Wool Network has acquired Victorian knitwear manufacturer Hysport.

The deal, estimated at 5 to 10million Australian dollars or $4 million to $8million at current exchange, will facilitate a new vertically-integrated, international “fiber to fashion” marketing strategy that will see woolgrower names flagged via QR codes at point-of-sale materials on Hysport’s primary Merinosnug brand. The products are manufactured in Australia from Italian or New Zealand-spun yarn made from a blend of 17-24 micron Australian superfine merino wool and New Zealand possum fiber.

“There are no other rural agencies that have manufacturing and retail capability in the wool industry in Australia like this, so it’s the first of its kind, where the actual rural side services the retail end,” said AWN managing director John Colley. “It is a genuine opportunity for farmers in Australia to drive demand for their own products.”

Merinosnug currently sells through 230 independent Australian retail outlets and the Purely Merino, Purely Australian and Australian Made stores located at all international airports within Australia and which are operated by the Lagardère Services-owned Purely Group.

Eighty percent of the Merinosnug’s customers are Asian tourists, said Colley, and plans are afoot to expand distribution of the brand into China and the U.S. this year.

A dual retail marketing strategy will also see the rollout of  “hundreds” of Merinosnug-branded stores within three to five years, he added, with the first flagship due to open in Shanghai.

Australian Wool Network will also supply Merinosnug product for a proposed rollout of up to a dozen Purely Merino stores at international airports within the next three years, he said.

The stories of 72 different woolgrower brands and groups will eventually be highlighted in Merinosnug product names and swingtags, with 20 of these due to be showcased in the first collection under AWN’s direction – Fall/Winter 2015/2016.

“We are literally taking the wool and putting it into the product and showing true traceability,” said Collis, who believes Hysport could boost its retail sales turnover tenfold to 100 to 200 million Australian dollars or $82 million to $163million within five years.

Australian Wool Network sells 235,000 bales of wool annually from over 5,000 woolgrowers, with an annual turnover of 300 million Australian dollars or $245 million. The company was founded in 1999 as a joint venture between Australian woolgrowers and brokers and a group of international wool processors, manufacturers and retailers including Ermenegildo Zegna, Loro Piana and Marzotto Group. A management buyout acquired the international companies’ 55 percent stake in 2011.

Founded in Melbourne in 1971, Hysport Pty Ltd is a third generation manufacturer which makes 72 different knitwear products, from scarves through to women’s wear and men’s wear, at a price range of 30 to 400 Australian dollars or $24 to $326.

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