WOOLGROWERS in the State’s north will soon have to trek to Sydney if they want to see their wool sold, with the Newcastle Wool Centre set to close its doors on March 31.
The last wool sale will be held at Newcastle in the week starting February 25.
AWH chief executive Craig Finlay said the lease on the premises ended in March this year and a new owner planned to develop the site for his own business.
Mr Finlay said AWH (and its preceding companies) had sold at the centre for about 50 years.
The option of leasing elsewhere in Newcastle was considered, but he said with the already low volumes of wool still declining it wasn’t a feasible option.
Ten years ago the Newcastle Wool Centre sold more than 150,000 bales a year.
This had dropped to 110,000 bales in 2007 and this financial year would be lucky to reach 50,000.
This decline had already seen Newcastle cut back from as many as nine sales a year a decade ago to just four sales a year in recent years.
Mr Finlay said finer wools would be the most impacted because of Newcastle’s location to the New England.
This might mean more travelling for the vendors to see their wool sold, but it would mean less for the buyers, many of whom were based in Sydney.
He said the move wouldn’t affect the company’s wool stores, including its warehouse at Rutherford (which is also leased), so transport costs to storage for vendors wouldn’t be affected.
Mr Finlay said no staff would be lost, as the Newcastle Wool Centre sales were run by the staff at the Rutherford wool store and with only four sales a year, the wool selling side of the operation in the Hunter Valley was only a small and irregular part of their duties.
Nonetheless, superfine woolgrowers were still devastated to hear the news, according to Australian Superfine Woolgrowers Association (ASWGA) president Helen Cathles.
She said the Newcastle Wool Centre had attached to it a prestige that gave dowstream benefits to processors and retailers and formed part of the end product’s provenance.
“So now we need to work with the brokers to make sure the selling centre and selling days recreate that prestige, such as selling events that focus on superfine,” she said.
“We need something that showcases the wool for buyers to look
at and that showcases the wool when international buyers come to visit.”
She said ASWGA planned to work collaboratively with brokers to make sure this works.
“We are getting more competition these days from other countries so we really need to keep Australia at the forefront of prestige superfine.”