Shoe makers visit their wool source

Landcorp employees Peter O’Malley (left) and Mace Lee, from Waipori Station, talk wool with Nanny...
Landcorp employees Peter O’Malley (left) and Mace Lee, from Waipori Station, talk wool with Nanny and Ove Glerup Kristensen. Photo: Richard Brewer.
When Nanny Glerup Kristensen felted a pair of boots with wool from her own sheep back in 1993, little did she know that it would grow into an export business.

Danish footwear firm Glerups now markets indoor shoes throughout Denmark and in more than 20 countries, selling close to 250,000 pairs a year.

In 2015, Glerups signed a deal with the New Zealand Merino Company and Landcorp for them to supply New Zealand strong wool for its range.

Mrs Glerup Kristensen and her husband Ove have been in New Zealand catching up with NZM staff and visiting Landcorp properties, including Waipori Station on the shores of Lake Mahinerangi.

Her foray into footwear started as a hobby, making shoes by hand — she could only felt two pairs a day — and it was then decided to make a small business out of it.

The business started  selling at a fair  and grew very slowly until it was decided to purchase some machinery and tools and the product became "more professional", she said.

Production was later moved to premises in Romania where 50 people were now employed making shoes. It had grown into a family business and the couple’s son, Jesper Glerup Kristensen, was now involved.

Mrs Glerup Kristensen "never ever" dreamed the business would develop into such a large operation. Rather, the couple thought making a few shoes would give them "a little extra money".

They used wool from Gotland sheep, a breed which was first established on the Swedish island of Gotland by the Vikings with Karakul and Romanov sheep brought back from expeditions into Russia and crossed with the native landrace sheep.

It was necessary to mix the Gotland fibre with another kind of wool and, in the beginning, Ms Glerup sourced that wool from England.

Sometimes she got the wool she wanted but at other times it was not the correct micron. As the business grew, they tired of the varying quality.

Now sourcing the wool from New Zealand, they had consistent quality and it was "very good" for the business, she said.

Ten percent of Gotland wool was still used and they knew all the owners of those sheep personally.

It was good to know that NZM had contact with suppliers "so we know everything is good around the sheep", she said.

During their visit, the 2018 supply order was locked in and 120 tonnes a year was being supplied. Mrs Glerup Kristensen expected that volume would continue to grow as the business did.

The couple had enjoyed seeing such large farms, as the biggest number of sheep on a Danish farm was about 110.

Landcorp chief executive Steven Carden said the relationship with Glerups was exactly the sort of thing Landcorp was trying to achieve through  its Pamu strategy, which involved  entering supply chains for top quality products.

"It’s great that they value the way that we farm and, of course, the contract provides certainty around supply and price for both of us," Mr Carden said.

It was the first deal Landcorp had made under Pamu and it also reflected the way the state-owned farming operation was joining  partners to create those opportunities, he said.

"The fact that Nanny and Ove are out here and visiting the farms and our growers shows it actually is a relationship.

"It’s not often a farmer gets the chance to meet their customers and see where their product ends up," he said.

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