Sunday, August 14, 2022

Wool back as carpet option

Bremworth chief executive Greg Smith is optimistic the tide is turning in the industry’s favour on consumer perceptions about wool carpets.

A study conducted by Bremworth on millennial consumers’ attitudes over the past three years is revealing the perception wool carpets are more expensive when compared to synthetics is less of a barrier than it once was.

The results come only a year after Bremworth opted to drop its synthetic carpet production and commit to an all-natural, all wool production line for carpets.

The study found more than three quarters of consumers recognised wool is a more environmentally friendly option, with more than two thirds also seeing it as a sustainable option. 

There has also been a shift in the values consumers are placing on their home flooring, with health and safety a key driver for almost a third of all buyers, particularly in relation to the risk of allergies caused by flooring materials.

Fire resistance is seen by 60% of carpet buyers as a key motivator for a wool purchase.

Bremworth chief executive Greg Smith said despite wool once being the ubiquitous option for flooring material in NZ homes, synthetics had come to dominate the market.

The value of wool exports, largely driven by carpet sales, has also plummeted by almost 50% in the past six years, but there are signs of a recent uptick, with a 10% growth in export revenue for the current year.

“What we know from the research is that half of those in the market for renovating or refurbishing their home are now in the millennial age bracket. 

“This is a market segment who is looking to wool for a range of reasons that were not priorities for the generations that preceded them.”

Read: NZ wool selected for New York’s Brooklyn Tower

The generation aged from 26 to 41 is starting to bring its collective values and demands to bear on many different market segments globally. 

This year Deloitte’s annual survey of Gen Z (aged 10-25) and millennials found two generations deeply concerned about the state of the world and trying to balance the challenges of their everyday lives with a desire to see real societal change occur.

Cost of living and climate change were almost equal concerns shared by the demographic groups.

Smith said it was also known millennials spend more time researching a product before buying and are opting for brands that align with their ethical beliefs and values. 

Product life length, sustainability and environmental impact of production are all factors considered at purchase.

“We also recognise that if we cannot effectively educate domestic consumers on the benefits of wool in the country where it is produced, we will have little chance of growing our offshore markets. The research has shown the industry is making significant advances on this front every year,” Smith said.

Bremworth’s move to drop synthetic carpet production a year ago has not been without its tensions. 

The company refused to back down after it was threatened with legal action from  global synthetic flooring company Godfrey Hirst. 

Also read: Conscious consumers could reignite wool preference

Godfrey Hirst demanded Bremworth withdraw a number of key claims in its marketing campaign promoting NZ wool.

Bremworth had emphasised wool’s sustainability compared to fibres made from plastic that equated to about 22,000 plastic bags in weight sitting on the average home floor.

Smith said Bremworth’s experience 12 months down the track has wider repercussions for other NZ exporters and manufacturers.

He said the company now focuses upon positioning wool as a premium residential flooring option in offshore markets, rather than trying to secure large-scale commercial fit outs which are heavily price driven.

Here in NZ, cost has been a key determinant in the market, but he said that was before there was widespread recognition of the environmental impact synthetic or plastic products create now and for future generations.

Cost was now a barrier for less than 25% of local consumers.

However, there was a need for greater focus on building awareness of wool, given 27% of survey respondents were unaware of what synthetic carpet is made of.

The surge in covid/lockdown related home renovations may also be tailing off, based on responses in the survey.

It showed fewer New Zealanders were interested in replacing their flooring. 

However, carpets remain the preferred option for 70% of those who are renovating.

“Interest in purchasing vinyl, laminate, tile, or wood flooring has dropped to as low as 14%, which means the agricultural industry can focus on further educating consumers on the benefits of wool over synthetics to grow market share,” Smith said.

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