Belfast Telegraph

Derry basketball retailer nets Small Business Fund backing

By Lesley Houston

A Londonderry man is on his way to slamdunking the competition with his online basketball goods store after a funding boost from the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund. Niall McDermott of basketballdirect.com said he jumps through hoops to meet the needs of fellow enthusiasts – and is now setting his sights on becoming the top-selling online basketball goods provider throughout the UK and Ireland.

The company has received an undisclosed sum from the fund to help them to break into new export markets.

The fund is managed on behalf of Invest NI by Ulster Community Investment plc, which is a subsidiary of social finance organisation Ulster Community Investment Trust.

The investment will allow the company to complete a rebranding exercise, develop its website and increase stock levels, enabling the organisation to pursue new export opportunities.

The business is also receiving ebusiness support from Invest NI.

Niall, a junior basketball coach in Derry, said his aim was to make his business the 'go-to' service throughout the UK and Ireland and beyond for basketball fans, players, coaches and officials.

"Nearly 80% of our sales are UK and Ireland based and we want to reverse that trend to make it 80% global sales," he said.

He said his business was "pretty much on track" to becoming the number one online basketball retailer.

And his personal knowledge of the sport was helping it achieve high levels of customer satisfaction, growing sales to 90 countries worldwide.

"It's not a huge sport in the UK and Ireland, but it's growing year on year," he said.

He added: "We spotted a gap in the market here because people usually have to order goods from Europe, America and Australia where the sport is really huge. One of the things that helps us is that we really know basketball and can spot the trends so we can meet our customers' needs and we use social media a lot to do that too."

By offering basketball goods from a source in Northern Ireland, Mr McDermott said it was offering customers an alternative to ordering from US-based outlets.

"The key strategic advantage is quality products at tighter pricing and quicker delivery," he said.

He added his next plans included the expansion of his warehouse at Skeogh Industrial Estate, permitting greater stock levels and even more employment opportunities.

UCI chief executive Harry McDaid said the company was set for growth, adding: "Basketball Direct serves as a further excellent demonstration of the strong economic contribution that Derry/Londonderry is making to the Northern Ireland economy through innovation, research and development and export."

Belfast Telegraph

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