The Midland town once dubbed the carpet capital of Britain is hoping a consumer campaign to buy wool will spark a revival in the industry’s fortunes.
Seventy per cent of all wool grown in the UK goes into carpet-making – and Kidderminster carpet manufacturer Brintons uses the wool from one in every seven British sheep.
At its peak in the 1920s the town employed 28,000 people in the carpet industry, but that figure has sunk to around 1,400 today, which includes the listed Victoria Carpets and Brintons.
Wool Week 2012, which runs from October 15 to 21, is part of the Campaign for Wool, chaired by John Thorley OBE from Malvern.
The aim is to promote the use of wool through support from home and fashion retailers like John Lewis, with the hope of reigniting Britain’s love affair with this natural material.
Mr Thorley said the production of man-made fibres, because of their reliance on oil and fossil fuels, will face “some difficulty”.
“Because wool is such an important fabric I have no doubt it will grow,” he said.
Sheep numbers have fallen by 15 per cent in the UK. Ten years ago there were 21 million breeding ewes – today there are 14 million.
For centuries sheep have shaped Britain’s landscape while their multi- purpose coats have provided livelihoods for generations of local families.
Yet this versatile material faces an uncertain future and the importance and recent decline of Kidderminster as the carpet capital is very relevant, according to Rupert Anton, great-grandson of Victoria Carpets, founder George Anton and a former Victoria director.
Mr Anton said: “It is a fact that we make the best carpet in the world in this country.
“When the best is needed, be it for the White House, Kremlin, Ritz, airports, cruise liners – carpet made in this country is chosen. It is synonymous with quality and heritage.
“We are seeing that when times are hard there is a feeling of ‘being in it together’ which is why consumers are rallying around carpet made by British manufacturers and are also supporting the independent retailer who is on the high street.
“While Carpetright is having the rug pulled from under it with like for like sales down, independents are bucking the trend as they engender local support.
“Many of them are steeped in carpet, are pillars of their local communities and part of the fabric of their communities – and this is proving attractive to consumers as they think they are actively supporting British manufacturers and retailers and want to keep the money in this country and in many cases in their locality.
“This is particularly true of the older generation who typically buy British and from an independent and the grey pound is holding up much better in these difficult times.”