The Riverina Project-Wool Producers Marketing Wool to the Consumer
Diana Gibbs is a wool producer and cofounder and director of Riverina Wool Growers. RWG was established in 1994 for the purpose of expanding and deepening wool producers activities to include sourcing wool, wool yarns and woollen products to its own design and specifications and directly marketing the final apparel products.
Diana’s vision was for Australian wool producers to take more responsibility and control of their product by becoming more closely linked to their markets.
The objectives of her overall project were for a group of wool producers, RWG, to form a commercial operation that would:
- Develop, produce and market a collection of high quality, branded woolen garments.
- Deliver these garments to a carefully defined market via a multi-channel approach.
- Create significant sales revenue and sufficient profits to provide a consistent commercial return for all partners.
The project in doing so would also:
- Create a successful joint venture partnership between RWG and representatives of the Wiradjuri people.
- Create a world class wool textile supply chain.
- Support education and training opportunities for the Wiradjuri people.
Her proposed activity represented the first critical step in the total project, that being to prepare a Business Plan to define and describe the wool marketing venture. The bursary was used to finance the Business Plan and also contributed to some preliminary promotional material, including media information kits presented at the Olympic Games in September 2000 and information produced for marketing investigations into the UK in October 2000.
The Business Plan was prepared in late 2000/early 2001 and was reviewed by independent consultants to ensure its objectivity and rigor. The Business Plan addressed key components of the project, including business background, vision, products, the market and marketing plan, business operations, ownership and management, risk factors along with financial considerations. A careful investigation of the demographics of the potential market available in the UK was undertaken to define the project’s target consumers and total available market.
The product is a collaborative effort between RWG and the Wiradjuri people, who provided some ideas as to elements of their culture that could be used as design themes, with one of the Elders painting an interpretation of these themes onto fabric, which was then provided to designers in the UK for incorporation into garments.
RWG is in the process of seeking an agreement to form a joint venture with the Council of Elders representing the Wiradjuri, which will enable indigenous themes to be incorporated in the design of knitwear apparel.
RWG will now put in place a management team with expertise in European and Australian markets, to manage the design, manufacturing, distribution and marketing of high quality women’s apparel.
Diana’s knowledge of the project and its market has grown enormously as a result of this Award, as has her negotiating and marketing skills, along with her contacts and networks within the international wool and fashion industry.
The Business Plan confirmed the merit and real potential of this total project, which once completed has the ability to resolve major wool textile supply chain issues. The supply chain will, not only, be much shorter and therefore more time responsive, but will provide strong market signals from designers and manufacturers direct back to producers. For wool producers, the project will provide for a landmark change in culture, allowing them to take responsibility of their product throughout the supply chain, and allow them to not just sell a commodity, but to market a product.
This project has provided a unique insight into issues facing wool producers and into the potential for commercial joint ventures with indigenous Australians. Many lessons have been learnt, as two groups aim to achieve something that neither could do separately. There are perhaps also some lessons in this project for the reconciliation process.