Michell Wool celebrates 150 years

By Adrienne Hartnett

Since 1870 the Michell name has been synonymous with the Australian wool industry. This year the company celebrates a milestone of 150 years in business.

Largely considered Australia’s largest and most successful wool processing firm, the Michell’s success can be traced back to generations of entrepreneurial spirit.  

It all began in 1870 when founder George Henry Michell began washing greasy wool he bought from local farmers in the River Wakefield at Undalya, in South Australia’s mid-north region. This wool was then exported to England for the textile industry. 

Eventually George moved his business to Hindmarsh in Adelaide so that it could expand. His four sons joined the business and continued with its management after his death in 1918. 

In the early 1970s, the company moved to their current location in Salisbury South, South Australia. In 2004 brothers David and Peter with their father John Michell bought out 38 family members and set about reinventing and expanding the business including expansion into China in 2006.

With two main wool handling stores in Corowa and Bendigo and a number wool buying locations across Australia, the company success story continues. 

Michell buys almost 15 per cent of Australia’s unprocessed wool, with the ability to source a percentage of it directly from woolgrowers themselves.

Executive director, David Michell believes the family’s enduring success and being one of just three remaining Australian processors comes down to an unwavering belief in “nature’s high-tech fibre” and an ability to manage risk. 

Mr Michell also credits a major part of the success to the more than 90 employees spread throughout Australia, including six in Corowa, who bring decades of experience in trading wool and blending batches. 

“Doing it right from the start makes a big difference at retail,” he said.

For Mr Michell, the future of Michell Wool is bright with a plan to smoothly transition the company to his three children and his brother Peter’s two children.

“There are no guarantees of course, but all our energy is focused on doing things bigger and better and that is also on the minds of the sixth generation who are looking in,” he said.

“I love the business. We have great staff, great customers and some really good suppliers of wool like us that are wedded to it.

“Wool is a bit of a disease, once you have got it you can’t let it go - we are here to stay.”

Manager and marketing specialist of Corowa’s Michell Wool store Georgia Reeves said it was an “honour” to work for such a great company. 

“Michell Wool are a privately owned family business and one of three mills left in Australia still processing wool,” Ms Reeves said.

“They are an amazing company to be part of and it’s such a great achievement to reach 150 years.”