With sustainability rising up the consumer agenda, retailers that stock a comprehensive offering for environmentally conscious consumers know they’re onto a winner. The days of product flying off shelves based on price alone have been consigned to history. Now, eco-savvy consumers are increasingly scouring products at the point of purchase, in a bid to track down brands with genuine green credentials.
According to a poll of 30,000 consumers in 60 countries by market research firm Nielsen, buying from trusted brands topped the agenda of sustainability purchasing drivers. Products made from natural or organic ingredients were high priority for shoppers, too, while businesses known for their green credentials and commitment to social value are more likely to chalk-up sales.
Garden retail is no exception. Driven by the nation’s growing band of organic and green gardeners, British-made products that leave a minimal footprint on the planet are more likely to catch buyers’ attention – and keep garden centre tills ringing.
Offering green alternatives
One such brand that’s making a big impact on garden retail is Twool. Born just nine years ago, Twool is an award-winning British wool brand that sells unique gardening and giftware products made from rare-breed Whiteface Dartmoor wool. Twool is no ordinary fledgling enterprise: it’s a thriving business with heritage manufacturing at its heart and has rapidly built-up a loyal following for its British sustainable garden twine – a greener alternative to imported jute.
Founder Kim Stead says: “Garden twine to the gardener is as salt and pepper to a cook; we use it all the time but give very little thought to where it has come from. The UK imports around 4,000 tonnes of jute every year from Asia, and with 27 million potential gardeners in the UK, this has a massive environmental footprint. British wool is still an underused resource in the UK: we grow it well, it is renewable, strong and durable and, as a natural product, it releases nitrogen as it biodegrades. What’s not to love about that!”
The business is committed to full product provenance from sheep to finished product, offering small farmers on Dartmoor a sustainable route to market for their wool. Whiteface Dartmoor sheep, kept in small flocks in Devon, are one of the UK’s most ancient breeds; indigenous to Dartmoor and an important part of farming heritage. Not only is Twool championing the breed, it is protecting their future through innovation. Wool from Whiteface Dartmoor sheep has a long staple length, making it perfect for British-made products.
Twool points out that British wool is an under-used natural material; something that the enterprise is trying to change. It also buys from British Wool and now processes seven tonnes per year, making it a truly British success story that supports farmers and prevents vital skills from being consigned to history.
Successfully overcoming challenges
Bringing Twool products to market, however, meant overcoming a series of challenges. Having a ready supply of wool was a step in the right direction but, finding the process to manufacture it in the UK wasn’t easy. Kim explains: “We have lost so much of our textile industry here in the UK. The heart of the industry still remains in Yorkshire, but mills have had to adapt as our demand for finer wool imports increases.”
Through collaboration, every obstacle was overcome, thanks to a blossoming relationship between people with unique skill sets – from Dartmoor farmers to expert weavers. Incredibly, there are more than 12 processes required to transform wool from sheep to spool, involving a network of shearers, scourers, spinners, dyers, spoolers, weavers, rope-makers and seamstresses.
The result is the twine, rope, tree ties, hats, eco-friendly reusable bags, dog leads, giftware, Christmas goodies and numerous woolly products that Twool has become renowned for. At first, Twool was a premium product to produce but now, thanks to economies of scale combined with ethical product development, the result is a truly competitive British-made product range.
Twool can grow retailers’ sales
While most products have a unique selling point, Twool has five! It’s strong yet soft, 100% natural, supports British rural trades and is 100% renewable, while products are compostable at the end of their life. That’s why Twool is becoming an essential core gardening product for retailers to stock, as buyers discover that it’s durable, soft and springy, kinder to plants and has always been plastic-free.
To further boost sales, innovative merchandising stands reinforce the products’ green credentials at the point of purchase. The attractive new Prop ‘n’ Crop merchandising stand features packs of heritage seed and Twool garden twine to tie-in plants, appealing to both the practical gardening and gift markets, with the stand sitting naturally alongside the twine free-standing display unit.
A bright future
Twool is already making an impact at big name retailers. The company’s woolly shopping bag for Waitrose proved to be a great success, selling thousands of bags over three years. Twool has been a finalist three times in the hotly contested RHS Chelsea Flower Show New Product of the Year Award and has also won several green awards.
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