Mill weaving its way to milestone

WAVERLEY Woollen Mills is proving there is still a strong need for Australian-made wool, as the Launceston company marks its 140 years of operation.

It was May 13, 1874, when the site officially opened, under the ownership of the Hogarths, and  staff will celebrate its milestone next week.

Mill manager Julianne Springer said that while the mill was much smaller than it used to be, it had proved to have a competitive edge against cheap imports from places like China.

``All the other weaving mills (across the country) have slowly gone except for us, and some companies like to buy Australian, so that's what's keeping us in business,'' she said.

``We're probably busier now than   we have been in the past few years.

``So that's a good sign.''

As well as making products for its own retail store in George Street, the mill sells to Harvey Norman, David Jones, Myer and Made in Tasmania in Hobart, and does commissions.

``Blankets are our biggest seller for the big stores but we also make rugs for different companies and we do a lot of commissions for companies with their own label,'' Mrs Springer said.

She  said the company had lost a lot of staff since she started in 1998, but it still produced a high-quality product and she hoped it would be operating in another 140 years.

``We've only got 12 full-time equivalent employees at the moment, plus casuals,'' Mrs Springer said.

``We did have 120 when I first started, but when we lost the Qantas contract we pretty much lost half our staff.''

Mrs Springer said the company used to make Qantas's business and first-class blankets before the jobs were shipped offshore.

Simon Fraser, with bobbins, celebrates Waverley Woollen Mills' 140 years of operation. Picture: NEIL RICHARDSON

Simon Fraser, with bobbins, celebrates Waverley Woollen Mills' 140 years of operation. Picture: NEIL RICHARDSON

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