A wool conference in the United States attended by Science Impact Leader Andy Cooper, opened retailers' eyes to the unique properties of New Zealand wool carpets.

The CCA Global Partners Winter Convention was held over the first week in January 2015 in Washington DC. This annual conference is all about providing Carpet One retailers with the information and tools they need to improve their business operations and sales.

Carpet One, the largest unit of CCA Global Partners, is North America’s largest floor covering retailer and have over 700 members in more than 1,000 locations worldwide. They’ve expanded into Canada, Australia and New Zealand with annual sales of over $3.3 billion.

Through their Just Shorn™ programme to promote New Zealand wool carpets to the United States, New Zealand wool broker, Elders Primary Wool (now Carrfield Primary Wool), asked AgResearch Science Impact Leader Andy Cooper to participate at the conference at two speaking opportunities.

“One presentation on the story of wool was to Australian retailers and EC Group,” says Andy.

“The other larger presentation had the whole New Zealand brand story added to it for the US retailers. It ended up running for two hours with plenty of questions from the floor.”

Elders Primary Wool also had a stand at the convention centre, where Andy was regularly available to talk direct to retailers.

“They would announce over the intercom that “Dr Wool” from New Zealand would be on the stand,” says Andy.

“I’m not quite sure what people thought of my British, not Kiwi accent, but it was a great opportunity to talk to retailers direct about wool, and New Zealand’s wool in particular, unique properties.

“Elders were over the moon with results from the conference – with plenty of sales opportunities arising out of the event.”

The opportunity the US wool carpet market presents is an important one. Wool sales in the US market are only 2% of total US carpet sales and ongoing demand shows slow growth, however the market is so large that a small increase of a few percent would take all of the wool New Zealand is currently producing.

“Wool retailers want to sell more wool carpets as they get a higher profit margin over equivalent synthetic products,” says Andy.

“My job was to arm them with the knowledge about the product benefits of wool to help them with their sales pitch to consumers.”

CCA Global liked the basic wool conference presentation so much they later filmed Andy giving the presentation for their own website.

Andy says that investing the time to attend this conference was worthwhile on many levels.

“Not only did I get to tell the New Zealand wool story direct to carpet retailers, but I got to tell the AgResearch story as well. It was also a chance to reconnect with people in the industry who attended the conference as well as an opportunity to make new connections. It turned out to be a great investment of my time.”

Confidence in selling wool was high and 22 more retailers signed up to the Just Shorn™ programme during the convention.

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