Wool producers reap the rewards of a return to work as suit sales soar

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Jordan Atkinson hadn’t walked into a suit store in over two years, but now he’s back, along with millions of other workers around the world in a massive return to the office.

This means that the demand for superfine wool for making high-end suits is on the rise, with some slight adjustments to the waistline.

“I’m really excited to be back in the office and collaborating with teams, having lunch as a team, and not sitting in front of a Zoom call for eight hours a day. I’m really excited.”

Jordan Atkinson hasn’t walked into a costume shop in two years during lockdown.(ABC News: Scott Jewel)

And retailers too.

Menswear maker Peter Jackson said sales have increased 60% since the peak of the pandemic.

Michael Osher has worked in the industry for more than 40 years and said he has noticed workplaces quickly coming back to life.

“There are quite a few people now. You can tell when you’re on the train. You have a lot of people who can’t sit down,” Mr Osher said.

Costumes are making a comeback

Bales of wool stacked inside a warehouse
Bales of wool piled up at Melbourne auction warehouse.(Rural ABC: Brett Worthington)

Over 80% of Australian wool is cleaned and processed in China before being sent around the world to countries such as the United States and Japan.

Rabobank agricultural analyst Dennis Voznesenski said U.S. imports of suits and wool fell about 70-80% during pandemic lows, but have picked up.

“But it’s important to note that we’re still about 11% below pre-pandemic levels, so we’re recovering. But not fully yet.”

The benefits are felt throughout the supply chain.

Central Victoria farmer Jeremy Phillips and his family produce the superfine wool used in high-end suits.

“I have to admit that I was somewhat surprised because everyone obviously thought that with COVID things fell apart for a short time,” he said.

a daughter and a father standing next to each other in a wool shed
Hannah and Jeremy Phillips say the price of their yarn has recently doubled. (Rural ABC: Eden Hynninen)

The price of their wool has recently doubled.

“You spend your whole life working and it’s really good to get rewards for sure,” Mr. Phillips said.

His 19-year-old daughter, Hannah, also helps on the farm.

Costume retailers can expect customers to return over the next few months.

“I have to go to a wedding in Newcastle in June, and I will need another suit for that,” Mr Atkinson said.

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