There are no shortage of analysts and experts casting views on how 2022 will roll out for the wool industry.
It is very easy to understand why few are going out on a limb to declare exactly where the market will be at this time next year.
With shipping logistics still causing frustrations to global trade, new strains of COVID-19 baffling pandemic predictions, retail recovery see-sawing and more businesses closing due to staff shortages, it's going to be another challenging year.
However, as a glass-half-full kind of fella, I am looking to 2022 with a high degree of optimism and excitement.
The buying power of the conscious consumer will surely continue to swing toward quality and natural fibres, such as wool.
US online sales are tipped to surpass one trillion dollars for the first time this year.
But, according to Forbes, 84 per cent of shopping activity will continue to be undertaken in bricks and mortar stores.
Retailers who incorporate technology into the in-store shopping experience are likely to lead the pack.
QR codes that link the consumer to the farmer, as well as provide additional information about stock availability and pricing, will be more commonplace.
Mobile phones will enable shoppers to visualise themselves in garments of different colours and settings, as well as provide a seamless checkout.
Interestingly, while e-commerce sales are forecast to increase by 15.5pc, 14.8pc and 13.8pc each year for the next three years, non-e-commerce sales are only expected to rise by 1.2pc, 1pc and 0.9pc.
This will result in a 3.5pc per annum increase in total US retail sales across all channels for the next three years.
Another shift in shopping trends is the move to "real-time" delivery, as retailers guarantee same-day or two-hour delivery services.
Instacart, an American company providing a retail pick up service across more than 500 stores in the US and Canada via a website and mobile app, has recorded $1.6 billion in sales.
So, are we ready in Australia - and the wool industry - to meet consumer demand for these growing retail trends?
I would say not.
A close friend recently ordered three items from a prominent Australian clothing store and the confirmation email was not "thank you for your order", it was: "due to demand, we will be at least four weeks to pack your order".
This is a long way from same-day delivery.
How many times have you purchased a woollen garment and been able to stand in the store and use your mobile phone to learn about where the wool was grown and the farmer's commitment to best practice?
We need to embrace technology and best position wool for success.
This will take a whole-of-industry approach, a great deal of investment into cutting-edge technology and agreement on a fail-safe traceability program for the wool sector.
I can't wait for the day that I can purchase a woollen coat - either in store or online - and connect to the farmer, farm and paddock where that sheep grazed.
Hopefully this occurs in 2022.
And we all want to see farmers continue to reap the benefits of their commitment to producing some of the world's best wool.
It certainly has been a strong start since the resumption of wool sales this month.
The Australian Wool Exchange Eastern Market Indicator (EMI) gained three cents per kilogram last week, closing at 1392c/kg (clean).
So, let's raise our glasses to improved shipping conditions, enhanced buyer confidence, new markets, greater technology uptake, no further strains of COVID-19, further boosts in consumer confidence and a truly great year for the Australian wool industry.
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