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Ulster Carpets' grand designs fit bill for Paris Ritz

By Audrey Watson

A Northern Ireland company is 'Puttin' on the Ritz' as it re-carpets the iconic Paris hotel which has provided a palatial home-from-home for the rich and famous since it opened in 1898.

The Paris Ritz, which is due to re-open later this year after refurbishment, is just one of the high-end contracts undertaken by Ulster Carpets, now world leader in the design, manufacture and export of high-quality Axminster and Wilton carpets.

The Co Armagh firm also designed and made the carpets for the George V in Paris and the Ritz and Savoy in London. Floors in the famous sail-boat-shaped Burj Arab in Dubai are also covered in Ulster Carpets creations, as is the DoubleTree by Hilton in London's Docklands.

Even carpets in the Tower of London have been made in Portadown. And if you have ever visited a Las Vegas casino, chances are you've been walking on home ground. The MGM Grand, the Bellagio and Caesar's Palace are all Ulster Carpets customers. "Exports outside of the UK now account for 70% of sales," says managing director Nick Coburn.

"Ten years ago it was the opposite. We are currently seeing a lot of business in Dubai and also in Qatar in the run-up to the football World Cup there", he said.

"The Middle East market is really opening up - it's our most recent market and we have secured numerous contracts to furnish hotels that are being built in Qatar ahead of the 2022 competition," he added.

Started in 1938, the company employs 600 staff, 400 of whom are based in Portadown and is one year into a seven-year, £35m investment.

"Even though we are constantly developing new, automated technology, we will keep adding to the workforce," said Nick. "In the past year, more than 30 jobs have been created because of the increase in business.

"We may have offices in Las Vegas, Dubai, Paris and London, but everyone has to come to Portadown to train," he says.

"Our staff are not just selling carpet, they are also required to give expert advice to people on all aspects of carpet care and design. They are all astounded by what we can do here and that the world's leading carpets are made in Portadown.

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