The global woollen industry is set to take a giant leap forward and step into the electronic age with the launch of an innovative new Internet site.

Buyers will be able to visit `virtual' trade shows and see the latest textiles on offer from around the world - without leaving their desks. And textile companies will be able to market and sell their innovations over the Internet without having to flying sales staff around the world.

It's all thanks to a new Internet site being developed by UK-based Woolmark Business Intelligence of Ilkley in Yorkshire, and its partner, textilesolutions.com, from Sweden. The new site is due to be launched on January 1st, and will offer business opportunities for woollen companies around the world.

Dr Ian Hilton, director of Woolmark Business Intelligence, a worldwide information service for the wool industry, said that the future impact of Internet technology could be a powerful force to help improve trading conditions.

And he explained that the wool textile industry could not afford to be left to survive using only traditional sales, marketing and ordering processes. "The world wide web could dramatically improve the efficiency of buying," he said.

He added: "We are trying to create a site to connect the worldwide industry and provide opportunities to trade and improve the supply chain.

"There are signs that the climate is changing and the demand for wool is increasing. We are seeing a better situation from around the world.

"The economy is improving in China and so too is demand in Europe. The woollen look is fashionable at the moment and there is a positive fashion cycle for wool. Things are improving."

By Deborah Bowyer.