John Lewis has partnered with Waitrose to launch a new mattress range to prevent wool from going to waste.
The initiative aims to drive demand for British wool and – in doing so – raise its value for the benefit of UK sheep farmers.
Once a highly valued commodity in the UK, wool has been under-utilised for decades.
Price offered do not even cover the cost of shearing, let alone transportation, forcing many farmers to dispose of it.
The partnership aims to raise awareness of the issue, following a startling survey among British shoppers.
The findings were as follows:
- Two-thirds (66%) claimed to be unaware so much wool was going to waste;
- Over half (52%) said they would be happy to pay more for products that use British wool;
- 41% stated they would be prepared to pay between 5-10% more;
- A-third said they would pay as much as 20% more.
John Lewis wool mattress range
With suppliers Hypnos, H.Dawson and Dalehead, John Lewis launched the new range of mattresses using wool Waitrose sheep farmers provided this week.
Jake Pickering, senior agriculture manager at Waitrose, comments: “Wool used to sustain entire economies.”
“But it has declined in value so dramatically that British farmers are now, in some cases, having to dump it.”
“We saw an opportunity to make a difference to our farmers and the environment by ensuring the quality wool they are producing is not wasted.”
“We hope that in doing this, we will raise awareness of this issue and restore British wool’s status as the highly valued and high-quality British commodity it used to be.”
Pandemic halts wool exports to China
Patrick Loxdale is one of the farmers involved in the initiative. He hopes that this move will “kickstart” a resurgence in interest in British wool.
“The wool market has been tough for a long time. Now, with exports to China halted because of the pandemic, it is even tougher.”
“We have been farming in Aberystwyth for 250 years, and if I have anything to do about it, we will be farming here for another 250 years.”
Renewable, biodegradable, environmentally friendly
Richard Naylor, sustainable development director at Hypnos, added: “As well as making comfortable beds, it is becoming increasingly important to the public that what they are buying is not only economically sustainable, but socially and environmentally sustainable too, and wool ticks all these boxes.”
He highlighted that wool is natural, renewable and fully biodegradable, making it environmentally friendly.
“It is also extremely comfortable thanks to its temperature regulating and breathable qualities – meaning people can sleep easier for many reasons.”
Re-establishing the long-term value of wool
Jo Dawson, Chairman of H Dawson and The Woolkeepers®, said: “It is a privilege to be a partner in this new supply chain where the main focus by all parties is to re-establish the long-term value of wool for the farmer, whilst delivering an exceptional product to the end-user which makes the most of the environmentally and physiologically positive attributes of this 100% traceable wool”.
Alternative uses for wool
NFU livestock board chairman Richard Findlay said:
“At a time when we are all thinking about how we can reduce our impact on the environment, it makes complete sense to use this natural product as much as possible, whether that is in mattresses or across the building trade in carpets and insulation.”
“I hope to see more companies, as well as the government, consider how wool can be used more in the future, in place of less sustainable man-made products.”
Farming Minister, Victoria Prentis said: “The UK has a proud tradition of wool production going back many centuries.”
“We have a growing and creative sector using British wool to make new, sustainable products, directly supporting our sheep farmers.”
“I am delighted that Waitrose and John Lewis are taking this step, to use an environmentally-friendly resource whilst also supporting British lamb producers.”
The John Lewis Classic wool mattress range starts from £599, and the Hypnos Luxury Handmade Collection starts from £899****
Further reading on That’s Farming
- Wool in School: We profiled Lorna McCormack from Co. Meath runs her own business called Wool in School, alongside rearing a family of four children. Wool in School is a unique education resource for schools and wool enthusiasts to educate on the uses of locally produced wool and alpaca fibre. Read that interview in full.
- That’s Farming contributor, Clodagh Hughes, discussed shearing, wool prices and alternative uses for wool.