£3m contracts bring new jobs at 'fit for a king' upholster Abbey

Some of Abbey's work at a sporting stadium in London
Gary McDonald Business Editor

A CO Antrim upholstery firm has landed £3 million of new contracts at some of the UK's leading sporting venues and top London hotels.

And it will lead to the addition of at least more 10 jobs at Abbey Upholstery, which has been creating world class bespoke furniture solutions for more than 90 years for kings and queens and global sporting superstars.

Based at a 100,000 sq ft factory in Carrickfergus and employing more than 120 staff, Abbey has previously created products for the Royal family of Jordan, for soccer, golf and rugby stars, and has fitted out high-end renowned hotels like Claridge's and top sporting venues.

Now the company has confirmed that it has secured £2m worth of new business across three sports venues (including horse racing and football venues) and £1m contracts at two large hotel complexes in London.

“It'll mean we need to take on more workers, starting immediately,” company director George Devlin told the Irish News.

But he admitted it's becoming "increasingly difficult" to recruit, given that there are no specialised apprenticeships in upholstery anywhere in the north.

“Staffing remains an issue, but we have our own training programmes in place, and our sector does present some amazing opportunities for new starts,” added George (75), who earlier this year was named Business Person of the Year at the Carrickfergus Business Awards for his services to local industry.

Abbey Upholstery was established by George's Devlin's father (also George) who, when made redundant from Whiteabbey linen mill in the early 1900s, bought a roll of lino and went door-to-door selling it.

Eventually some of his customers started asking him about furniture and upholstery, and in 1935 Abbey Upholstery began operating.

Three generations later the firm is in the safe hands of George Devlin (the third) and his brother Paul, with their father George keeping a constant hand and advisory support to the business in his role as senior director.

Recent projects undertaken by Abbey includes the five-star Galgorm Resort, Claridge’s Hotel in London and the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin.

As well as working with major hotels and business clients, Abbey has partnered with a number of high end interior designers including Lee Austin working on commissions for private client interiors across the world, creating furniture commissions for clients as far away as Barbados, Monaco, LA, Jordan and New York.

The company is renowned in the furniture industry for creating and delivering beautiful interior fit-out projects for a number of the world's top luxury brands, combining chic style and stunning substance.

George Devlin added: “Our track record of delivering bespoke products to some of the biggest names in the hotel industry speaks for itself, and it’s something I'm personally extremely proud of.

“As a family-run business we work with a demanding sector to deliver unique joinery and upholstery solutions as well as interior fit-out services.

“Our reputation has enabled us to grow our market across the leisure sector including bars and restaurants in addition to private luxury residences.

“Our success is all down to our history, our culture, and our values: because we’re a third-generation family business, our passion for our work, our dedication to quality, and our unwavering commitment to customer service, are all very much part of our DNA.”

He added: “An attention to detail permeates the business, with my sons George and Paul now overseeing operations every day to ensure the standards Abbey is known for are upheld.

“The workforce is considered an extension of the family. Indeed, there are other generations of the same family working at Abbey, as well as employees who have decades of experience at the company. This aligns with our commitment to develop young talent through training and apprenticeship schemes.

“Over the years, great relationships have been built up as a result of how professionally we have carried out our work. That has further strengthened our reputation in the market and enabled us to work with clients on multiple projects.”

George said new recruits to Abbey will be trained in a range of disciplines from design, materials and manufacture to luxury fit-out and specialist joinery.

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