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Australian Wool Sees Transatlantic Retail Rebound Ahead

New analysis from Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) points to a bounce back in the traditional wool consumption markets of the U.K. and United States for the 2021 Fall-Winter season.

AWI noted that this follows sales and imports growth in China, South Korea and Japan in recent months. AWI CEO Stuart McCullough said there is growing optimism from retailers in U.K. and U.S. that vaccinations have turned around the worst elements of the pandemic.

“The U.K.’s successful vaccination program and staged easing of restrictions has meant consumers are shopping more freely again,” McCullough said. “There is strong interest in clothing sales, particularly knitwear, as the spring weather in Britain is some of the coldest in two decades.”

The U.K. National Office of Statistics also reported that clothing stores provided the largest positive contribution to the monthly growth in March, with an increase of 17.5 percent in sales volume.

Non-essential stores in England and Wales re-opened on the April 12, with greater freedom of movement and socializing expected to further increase non-essential retail spend and footfall to high street retail locations, AWI said.

“Social occasions will help to drive renewed demand for apparel, with many younger consumers eager to socialize, releasing pent-up demand for fashion,” McCullough added.

The formal market–suiting in particular–is expecting a V-curve recovery in sales sparked by occasion wear, as Britons will be able to attend more formal events such as weddings in coming months.

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The U.K. is the third largest per capita global consumer of wool and is set to be the next economy to see a return to more normal business activity after China and South Korea, followed by the U.S., Japan, Scandinavia and Western Europe, according to AWI.

In the U.S., the National Retail Federation reported that April sales were flat from March but grew dramatically year-over-year, as the rapidly recovering U.S. economy marked a full year since the coronavirus pandemic shut down most stores during the spring last year.

Clothing and clothing accessories store sales were down a seasonally adjusted 5.1 percent month-over-month but up an unadjusted 711.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

In the U.S., there are signs that quality Italian wool apparel, such as women’s coats and next-to-skin items like base layer and fine merino knitwear, has remained resilient throughout the pandemic, AWI said. While the U.S. retail sector is now in its Spring-Summer period, “there is renewed optimism from the Italian mills for wool orders being secured for the impending 2021 Autumn-Winter season, AWI added.