Demand up for NZ-made wool carpets

Carpet samples for the US market are using both crossbred wool and merino wool.
Carpet samples for the US market are using both crossbred wool and merino wool. Photo credit: File / Getty

By Susan Murray of RNZ

The global pandemic has New Zealand wool carpet manufacturers spinning, with demand increasing from customers here and in the US.

Over the past decade, wool carpets have lost ground to synthetic floor coverings with national sales dropping from 80 percent of the market to only 15 percent now.

But Godfrey Hirst general manager Andre May said some there was some growth appearing because people unable to travel were spending money on their homes.

Godfrey Hirst is New Zealand's largest manufacturer of floor coverings, mainly carpets and mainly synthetic.

However, May said post lockdown there had been double-digit growth in wool carpet sales, with a recent "two-month sales push resulting in a 30 percent growth, albeit off a very low base".

May said the firm's large manufacturing site in Auckland was investing in new carpet designs, colours and styles, more machinery, and overcoming challenges like colour fastness.

Capacity at spinning and dying plants in Oamaru, Dannevirke and Lower Hutt is being increased.

Staff were working overtime to cope with workloads, and May said, unlike the firm's imported synthetic products that are being held up with the current port issues, increasing volumes of wool were coming directly from New Zealand farms.

Flooring expenditure has gone up across all types of coverings so some of wool's increase in demand is coming from that he said.

"In addition, we are seeing a sentiment coming in people are looking to more sustainable fibres, more natural fibres, possibly more than they have historically and so there's a natural interest growing in that respect as well," he said.

Interest is also coming from larger purchasers of carpets, including government departments although for commercial reasons he would not expand on that, but he said group home builders are also more in the market.

"Private commercial entities that would build multiple dwellings as part of their business we are seeing them now ask for ranges not only of synthetic products but also for ranges in a kind of good, better, best, format for wool as well," May said.

Godfrey Hirst also manufactures woollen carpets for the US market that are sold through its parent company Mohawk Industries. May said interest was jumping up here too.

"We've been asked for more samples than we've ever been asked for before. There's a cycle where we provide new ranges up to the US, and the samples we are providing now, are two to three times more than we've provided in the past."

Carpet samples for the US market are using both crossbred wool and merino wool.