Business

Ulster Carpets floors its rivals in record-breaking year of sales and profits

Watched by Ulster Carpet employees, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council mayor Julie Flaherty cuts the ribbon on the firm's new dyehouse and energy centre, part of a £40m capital investment by the company. She is flanked by chairman Ed Wilson and managing director Nick Coburn, and included are (from left) Mary Montgomery, John Wilson and Caroline Somerville. Photo: William Cherry/Press Eye
Gary McDonald Business Editor

NORTHERN Ireland's leading premium brand carpet maker continues to floor its rivals - despite them trying to undercut the Portadown luxury manufacturer in a bid to buy market share.

Ulster Carpets, founded 80 years ago by Jean and George Walter Wilson and now chaired by their son Edward, has just reported an 11.5 per cent rise in sales to a record £76.3 million.

Its pre-tax profits spiralled by 59 per cent to £10.7 million in the year to March 31, with £8.5 million being retained after all payments were made.

And the performance is significant given the pressures the luxury manufacturer is under from lower-cost competitors, which brought an angry retort from Ulster Carpets.

In his chairman's statement accompanying the results, Mr Wilson says: "As in 2016/2017, our plants ran at full capacity and we saw increases in sales in most areas in which we trade.

"This excellent result is all the more commendable in the context of several of our competitors persisting in offering products at prices which do not reflect anything like the real costs of design and manufacture.

"Our customers, however, despite their understandable wish and need to reduce their purchasing costs, generally tend to recognise and appreciate that Ulster Carpets offers a unique blend of design and product expertise, together with a long record of reliability in deliveries and after-sales service.

"They understand that while there will always be suppliers prepared to offer cut prices for short term market gain, the real value of a product does not lie solely in the purchase price."

The results revealed that the firm has 666 staff (up from 640), and its total wages bill in the last trading year was £25.8 million (interestingly the three directors' combined packages dropped back significantly from £2.1m to £1.3m, with the highest paid's salary more than halving from £1.8m to £600,000).

Recently Ulster Carpets supplied 12,000 sq metres of bespoke carpets for the new £53m Grand Central Hotel in Belfast, with its owners the Hastings Group having been a client for many years.

But around three quarters of Ulster Carpets' product is exported out of the UK, and the company sells successfully sell to every continent in the world despite many barriers and challenges.

Earlier this month the company unveiled its new dyehouse and energy centre in Portadown, the first stage of a £40 million capital investment and regeneration programme.

The state of the art facility sees traditional dyeing methods replaced with innovative technology which will improve energy efficiency, increase capacity and reduce the environmental impact of the company's dyeing processes.

Nick Coburn, Ulster Carpets Group managing director and deputy chairman, said: “The new facility is designed to improve energy efficiency and to significantly reduce the company's carbon footprint.

“We have always taken a long view of continually investing for the future and are proud to be the leading company in our industry on the international stage.”

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