Africa has always played a significant role for Stoll, a leading manufacturer of flat knitting machines based in Reutlingen, with the oldest agency contract, in South Africa, dating back to more than 35 years. Especially in South Africa and Kenya, Stoll machines, built in the 1950s and 60s, are still running. The company is now sharing its success story and the future outlook on the growth opportunities in the region.
For many years, Stoll has successfully served markets such as South Africa, Mauritius, Madagascar and the North African states, including Libya. “In particular, the market around Madagascar is expected continue to develop,” the company says. “As one of the sub-Saharan countries, Madagascar enjoys advantages in terms of exports to Europe and the US. Where products are currently knitted to a large extent on hand machines, before long these will be replaced by electronic flat knitting machinery.”
“An important re-launch of locally produced knitwear can also be seen in South Africa, a country which was largely dominated by Chinese imports in the past decade. Mauritius, once the largest producer of fine knitwear in the region, is becoming a hub for luxury cashmere products, knitted for niche markets.”
Less and less cheap knitwear from South East Asia is cleared at South African customs. The South African Government is calling to slowly ban importing cheap and low-quality knitwear. Therefore, it is offering an attractive incentive programme, helping local manufacturers to benefit from Proudly made in South Africa.
“These days, Stoll machines play an important role when it comes to the revival of “school sweater production.” The main centre of knitting school-sweaters and -cardigans is Newcastle. This city half way between Johannesburg and Durban is very well known for its flat and circular knitting industry,” the manufacturer explains.
“Being present at the right time in the right place with the right product and price is the major reason for the success of Stoll. And this helped Stoll to penetrate one of the largest garment manufacturers in the country. Within a few months, this customer became one of the biggest flat knitters for school jerseys. But not only school sweaters are produced in South Africa; highly fashionable knitwear, designed by well-known local designers is knitted in Johannesburg and Cape Town on Stoll machines.”
Also, Durban and East London, more known for the manufacturing of Mercedes-Benz cars, are centres for knitwear. Most of South African department stores source knitwear on the East coast. A number of sourcing companies rely on knitters equipped with Stoll. In addition, some of the oldest flat knitting companies were founded and are still run by German immigrants, coming from the area of Stoll’s hometown Reutlingen. “Listening to Stoll`s home dialect more than 10,000 km away, always brings a smile to our faces. Together with one of the oldest Stoll agents, Stoll enjoys an outstanding position in our field,” the company says.
Mauritius is amongst the oldest producers of flat knitted products in the sub-Saharan region. Dominated once by a few huge producers, equipped with electronic machines, and several small companies, equipped with hand flat machines, the country today shows a different picture. The big structures have either moved to Madagascar due to lower labour cost or have reduced their capacity significantly as huge quantities cannot be produced cost-effectively anymore in Mauritius.
“The beauty is, that today we find many small to medium sized flat knitting companies having electronic machines. These companies produce mainly exclusive cashmere products for Europe and the US,” the company says. “Even newcomers, who had no flat knitting machines at all, have realised that there is a way to profit from luxurious knitwear and have invested in Stoll machines. The tourist sector is also a big player on the island as these people buy on a one stop occasion the expensive and luxurious flat knitted products.”
“Therefore, existing Stoll customers all maintain their own boutiques in the coastal areas. Interesting enough that also foreign investment is still attracting the island. Neighbouring countries have found Mauritius to be the right place to produce quite specialised knitwear and export it to other African countries. Stoll can be very proud to be the leading supplier in the market of flat knitting machines. Together with the local partners, Stoll assure a high level of customer satisfaction in all required fields. Our common aim is to further grow together with existing Stoll customers and potential customers”.