Woollen mills busy as people pick up knitting needles in isolation

Bendigo Woollen Mills is operating six days a week and shipping six crates of wool a day

Coronavirus
BUSY: Bendigo Woollen Mills general manager for sales Kai Crosson said the mills has been inundated with orders for yarn from people at home during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY

BUSY: Bendigo Woollen Mills general manager for sales Kai Crosson said the mills has been inundated with orders for yarn from people at home during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY

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Coronavirus isolation sees people take up knitting, keeping Bendigo Woollen Mills busy.

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The Bendigo Woollen Mills is distributing between six and eight crates a day as people take up their knitting needles during isolation.

After closing the mills to the public in March as a safety precaution, the mill's mail order, phone and internet sales have boomed.

General manager for sales Kai Crosson said the team was surprised at how busy it has been.

"I don't know that we were expecting it, probably a little bit, but we were just surprised at how busy it has been," she said. "It makes sense given people are home and want to keep themselves occupied or finish projects.

"After the first week of being busy, we thought it would slow down and it did a tiny bit.

"We closed the shop sometime in March. We were never forced to close but given people were told to stay home, we thought it was best to not encourage people to leave home to visit us."

With people unable to visit the mills in person for their yarn, they turned to tradition and digital ways of purchasing.

"We have a website and do over the phone and mail orders," Ms Crosson said. "That (digital) part business is going nuts and taking off. It eased things for us in a staffing sense because we could redeploy staff to other parts of the shop. So we've been quite busy.

"This business started in 80s with mail order (but) the online part of business has been growing since it started in 2008, so we were set up for that model anyway."

Sales have been so strong that the mills have taken on more staff and been operating more often.

"We had to put on extra staff to cope," Ms Crosson said. "The factory normally works 24 hours a day, five days a week but we have been working 24 hours a day, six days a week.

"We have had dispatch staff coming in on Saturdays and doing longer hours to get through as many parcels as we can. It's about six to eight crates a day for Australia Post."

Mr Crosson said the Bendigo Woollen Mills shop would re-open from Monday.

"There won't be massive changes," she said. "Just before we shut the shop, we reduced the hours, so we will starting with that - Monday to Saturday between 10am and 3pm," she said.

"How quickly we change that depends on how busy it is. We have put signage up and cleaned inside. Not massive changes but enough to be able to allow people adhere to the new rules."

Ms Crosson said the average visitors to Bendigo Woollen Mills were people who knitted personally or for others.

"They're not mainstream businesses," she said. "There is definitely lots of people who always wanted to knit and never had time, people who haven't in the last couple of years and now have time and regulars who have extra time.

"Quite a lot of customers who visit normally would be people who travel around and have been customers for years and want to drop in. It's nothing for a normal winters day to see cars from Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland parked next to each other. There have definitely been repeat customers and an increase in new customers. Hopefully as things pick up (and re-open), people continue to knit, crochet and weave."

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