Pandemic cut production by 50 per cent at Armagh-rooted textile group

Union Street (Lurgan) said the Covid-19 pandemic severely impacted production during 2020.

A GLOBAL textile manufacturing group, which has its roots in Co Armagh, has revealed the Covid-19 pandemic severely cut its production output in the past year.

Union Street (Lurgan), whose registered address is at Clarendon Dock in Belfast, has reported a 40 per cent fall in pre-tax profits, ending the year to April 30 2020 with a pre-tax loss of £112,366.

It followed an eight per cent drop in turnover to £42.6 million for the same period.

In a report filed with Companies House in recent days, the textile group disclosed the pandemic reduced production to approximately 50 per cent for the year ending April 30 2021.

The company, founded in the halcyon days of the linen trade in the north, is primarily involved in weaving, dyeing and finishing of linen and linen cotton fabrics, for sale to the clothing sector across the globe.

The group last year revealed plans to open a new yarn-spinning factory in India in a bid to reduce its exposure to pricing volatility in China.

It was part of a major restructuring of the group, which has seen significant production activity transferred from Europe to India, where labour is much cheaper.

According to the latest company report, staff costs for the group's 704 workforce averaged at £9,800 per head in 2020.

But the board has said its five-year plan to ramp up sales was dealt a major body blow by the pandemic.

It described the impact on the group as “significant”, with directors anticipating that profits will be reduced in 2021 and 2022.

But Union Street board anticipates production will recover by 60 per cent into 2022, potentially accelerating to 70 per cent.

According to the report, that will be achieved by ramping up production in India.

The group's controlling shareholder remains 63-year-old James ‘WFB' Baird, a fourth generation member of the linen trade Baird family.

According to the Union Street report, its Indian subsidiary WFB Baird & Co arranged and paid for its entire workforce in India to be vaccinated during June 2021.

Alongside Northern Ireland, Union Street also owns subsidiaries in Estonia and Poland.

According to the latest report, the directors haven't ruled out investing and expanding an existing manufacturing site in the EU to mitigate any potential impact from Brexit.

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