John Lewis and Waitrose launch initiative to save good wool from going to waste

John Lewis, in partnership with suppliers Hypnos, H.Dawson and Dalehead, is launching a new range of mattresses this week that, for the first time ever, will be made with wool provided by Waitrose sheep farmers.

Once a highly valued commodity in the UK, wool has been under-utilised for decades, with the price offered not even covering the cost of shearing, let alone transportation. This has led to hundreds of thousands of tonnes of high quality British wool being wasted for decades, with farmers being forced to burn or bury it after shearing.

This issue is not common knowledge among British shoppers, with two-thirds (66%) claiming to be unaware farmers were having to burn their wool. But showing they care, over half (52%) said they’d be happy to pay more for products that use British wool, with 41% saying they’d be prepared to pay between 5-10% more and a third saying they’d pay as much as 20% more.

Now, by partnering with Waitrose’s long serving sheep farmers, this highly sustainable and natural fibre will once again be put to good use, in a move the John Lewis Partnership hopes will raise awareness of the issue, drive demand for British wool and – in doing so, raise its value for the benefit of sheep farmers all over the UK.

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 are in a fortunate position in running a Partnership that operates both a supermarket and a home department store, so we saw an opportunity to make a difference to our farmers and the environment by ensuring the quality wool they’re 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.”

Patrick Loxdale, one of the farmers involved in the initiative, comments: “The wool market has been tough for a long time and now, with exports to China halted because of the pandemic, it’s even tougher. My hope is this initiative will kickstart a resurgence in interest in British wool. We’ve been farming in Aberystwyth for 250 years and if I have anything to do about it, we’ll be farming here for another 250 years.” 

Richard Naylor, sustainable development director at Hypnos, comments: “As well as making comfortable beds, it’s becoming increasingly important to the public that what they’re buying is not only economically sustainable, but socially and environmentally sustainable too, and wool ticks all these boxes. Wool is natural, renewable and fully biodegradable so great for the environment, and it is also extremely comfortable thanks to its temperature regulating and breathable qualities – meaning people can sleep easier for many reasons.”

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”.

Nicholas Coleridge, chairman of The Campaign for Wool, said: “Farmers worldwide nurture their flocks 24/7, every day of the year, to ensure healthy, happy sheep and land regeneration. Each season sheep require a ‘hair cut’ and this wool is used, depending on the fibre type, strength and fineness for fashion, the home or to insulate buildings. The Hypnos xxx mattress from John Lewis guarantees complete traceability of the wool from farm to store.” 

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, which directly supports our sheep farmers. I’m 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 £899.00.