Record grain harvests and the rapid rise in the number of domestic dog owners in North America apparently don’t have much in common, unless you follow the fortunes of Melbourne-based industrial fabric maker Gale Pacific.
In reality, Gale is probably one of the biggest names most farmers have never heard of, but come harvest time his work is all over the bush.
Its huge grain bunker covers, lorry tarpaulins, haystack covers and hail nets are deployed across Australia to protect large amounts of agricultural produce.
Various Gale Pacific shade cloth products also cover beef cattle feedlots, dairies and horticultural crops, while its bird netting protects fruit trees and vines.
Its diverse business range extends to blackout curtains used in pig and poultry houses, coated fabrics for food industries, dam coatings, erosion management fabrics, display signage and anti-static fabrics. special coatings used in mine shafts.
The company is even launching a product coated with biodegradable paper as a compostable alternative to polystyrene for food packaging and disposable cups and plates.
In the consumer market, Gale Pacific is the parent company behind the leading brand of shade products Coolaroo – everything from beach umbrellas and backyard shade sails to roller blinds.
The Coolaroo name isn’t just important in Australia either.
More than a third of Gale’s total domestic and commercial revenues come from the United States, supplemented by smaller but growing markets in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
Remarkably, this company’s world-renowned skills in large-scale knitting and polymer fabric coating have evolved from what began in the 1950s as a small textile company making women’s scarves and shawls in the suburbs. of Braeside.
Shade cloth pioneer
Indeed, Gale has developed the world’s first shade cloth knitting technology, gradually transforming its fabric factory into an international advanced, value-added polymer textile company.
Today, its Melbourne plant focuses on fabric coating, product assembly and research, while knitted fabric is produced in Ningbo, southern China, and products for the Americas are made at its sites in California and Florida.
“Today our business in the United States is worth about $96 million,” said chief executive John Paul Marcantonio, who is actually based in Florida along with other senior executives.
“The scale and global potential of this market makes it a great growth opportunity for domestic and commercial sales.”
In addition to its household shade and screen products, the dog bedding market is typical of the US and European retail opportunities that Gale has seized, which is now booming because the coronavirus pandemic has caused an increase the number of pet owners.
However, much of Gale’s fortune, especially for its trading division, depends on the success of the grain harvest in Australia.
Notable customers include large storage bunker operators such as GrainCorp and CBH whose temporary grain piles and grain trucks need good protection from capricious harvest weather conditions.
“The last two years have been fantastic for us, although before that two years of drought took our grain sector sales to near zero,” Marcantonio said.
In fact, last year’s global revenue jumped 31% to a record $205 million, including an increase of more than $50 million from its core Australian and US markets.
Revenues in the first half of 2021-2022 would also have broken records were it not for soaring costs and bottlenecks in global shipping routes, as well as related cost increases for raw materials and Workforce.
Shipping container rental costs alone had risen from less than $2,000 per container (40ft) at the start of 2020 to $12,000.
Gale then announced that its first six-month revenue fell 10% from the same period in 2021, although that result was still 54% higher than in 2020.
A big push to fill its supply pipeline, however, had positioned the company well for its second half.
“We’re now way ahead. The material is actually coming in ahead,” Marcantonio said.
“We have far exceeded the needs for the upcoming agricultural season and are looking forward to another very good harvest year. »
Livestock shade and horticultural crop protection markets have also been growth areas in Australia and the Americas, as well as in the emerging Middle East and North Africa region and Asia.
Interestingly, dogs were also a surprise growth market.
While the coronavirus pandemic had caused huge supply chain headaches for Gale, it had also triggered an increase in the number of dog owners, which, in turn, led to a demand for beds for dogs on raised frames – a line the company originally developed to use woven fabric scraps and reduce waste.
“Sales have gone crazy,” Mr. Marcantonio said.
“Pet ownership has exploded and subsequently people want to keep their dogs comfortable and off hard ground with good air circulation underneath in hot weather.
“It’s not something we expected, but it’s a trend that’s going to continue, especially as all of these dogs get older.”
He said that while the company tends to have relatively modest growth targets, it is proud of its research achievements and the opportunities they have created, particularly in the food tech sector, these last time.
“We also have many global retail ambitions to take advantage of growing e-commerce and markets with good disposable income to spend on homes.
“I think there are some very exciting opportunities coming up in the next three to five years.
“This includes regions in Europe and South America which we haven’t focused too much on yet.”
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