Merger to push wool DNA plan

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Australian Wool Network wool manager Greg Tilbrook at the wool broker’s Bibra Lake warehouse. The West Australian
Camera IconAustralian Wool Network wool manager Greg Tilbrook at the wool broker’s Bibra Lake warehouse. The West Australian Credit: Iain Gillespie/The West Australian, Iain Gillespie

Following on from a partnership agreement between an Australian wool broker and a WA-based international apparel garment manufacturing business, the two parties have combined forces in the west as a gateway to world markets.

NSW-based Australian Wool Network partnered with Landsdale-based ACLink in July 2020 after AWN sold its Merino & Co and MerinoSnug woollen garment brands to ACLink’s Australian Chinese owner Tim Kang.

ACLink, or Australia China Link Pty Ltd, was established in 2013 and Mr Kang also operates a wool and cashmere garment manufacturing facility in the Inner Mongolia regions of China, producing apparel accessories for the global luxury market.

AWN managing director John Colley took up a position on the board of ACLink in last year’s joint venture deal which meant an expansion of the processing of the MerinoSnug brand, with AWN taking a significant shareholder position of the partnership.

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As part of the expansion, Merino & Co’s manufacturing operations were earmarked to relocate from Carrum Downs, in Victoria, to ACLink’s factory in WA.

Mr Colley said ACLink had significant outlets in China and the US and with the partners both based in WA, it would make their Australian-made garment story more transparent throughout the supply chain. He said the joint venture between AWN and ACLink entailed the continuation of Merino & Co and brought about an unique business proposition to provide Australian-made woollen garments with traceability.

“It will provide AWN and its clients with direct access to international markets,” he said.

Former Merino & Co general manager Alvie Webster, who now oversees AWN’s direct network advantage program, said Australia’s largest independent wool broker wanted to connect wool consumers from across the globe with the wool growers who produced the wool in their garments.

“This fits perfectly with our new enterprise partner’s commitment to expanding their business further in the northern hemisphere,” she said. “It is difficult to say how much could be produced under the new venture until all the machines from Melbourne have been recommissioned to WA and are running alongside existing machinery.”

Ms Webster said the prolonged WA border closure had delayed manufacturing by many months.

“In addition, distribution channels for our products are being reframed post-COVID-19, particularly due to the demise of the lucrative tourism market,” she said.

“This requires a rethink of product categories which in turn affects production numbers due to knitting times.”

Ms Webster said AWN was keen to connect its DNA wool growing clients to a paddock-to-retail platform.

“Merino & Co products require particular specifications of wool, with clients who meet these requirements eligible to become part of the DNA program.”

Ms Webster said Merino & Co products would be sold to wholesalers, both domestic and international.

“This includes the Williams Wool Shed, which was the home of our first DNA program in WA,” she said.

“Merino & Co has 300 outlets across Australia.”

AWN WA wool manager Greg Tilbrook said the connection to Merino & Co brands through the DNA program was what clients were looking for.

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