Magic result as carpet sales fly high
A Northern Ireland company is weaving a web of international success after being named UK Exporter of the Year in London.
Ulster Carpet Mills, which makes Axminster and Wilton carpets for some of the world's top hotels, casinos and cruise liners, was praised for achieving exports which now account for over 70% of its sales.
Thanks to its creativity and exporting prowess, the most luxurious hotels in the world – such as the Burj Arab in Dubai and the George V in Paris – have their floors covered in Ulster-made carpet.
The company has also looked to Mecca, Saudia Arabia, as the Islamic place of pilgrimage has seen increasing construction and development.
Ulster Carpet Mills was one of 700 nominations from across the UK for the annual Private Business Awards, sponsored by business advisers PwC.
Finalists at the awards ceremony in London including major national and regional companies, family businesses and social enterprises.
Two other Northern Ireland firms were shortlisted – quarry and mining machinery manufacturer CDE in Cookstown for exporter of the year and the East Belfast Mission in the social enterprise category.
Ulster Carpets is a third generation family-owned company, which was founded in 1938 and now employs 505 people.
In the year to the end of March 2012, it made pre-tax profit of £5m on turnover of £56.5m.
Ulster Carpets staff were this week hosting an international sales conference in Denmark.
Contract sales director Elaine Patterson yesterday said the exporter of the year accolade was "a massive achievement for all the staff".
"We are currently holding our international sales conference in Denmark, which is home to one of our subsidiaries [Danfloor]. The timing of the announcement has been fantastic."
The economic downturn prompted Ulster Carpet Mills to shift its focus for export to the Middle East, a territory which remains a big focus, Ms Patterson said.
"We have been investing heavily in that part of the world, which shows there is still a market for high value product and service in a challenging and competitive market.
"The Middle East has been contributing to increasing global sales along with the markets we are more established in, like Europe and the US.
"We have been working in Mecca, as part of the growing trend of religious tourism, on quite a substantial project."
The company recently invested £1m in a yarn manufacturing plant in Yorkshire to improve capacity and also spent £7m on a dye house and energy centre in Portadown.
Gracing floors the world over
The company is Northern Ireland's largest manufacturer of Axminster and Wilton carpets with its main factory in Portadown.
The fastest growing sales region for the firm is the Arabian Gulf where Ulster Carpets has an established office with its own employees.
Danfloor, the Danish subsidiary, which serves the Scandinavian and health care markets, once again performed at the very top end for its sector.
In Portadown, Ulster Carpets is now embarking upon its ambitious £30m re-development programme.
The first phase is a new dye house and energy centre.
Its carpets grace the floors of hotels around the world including the Crowne Plaza, Fairmont, Four Seasons, Hilton, Hyatt, Intercontinental, Mandarin Oriental, Marriott, Radisson, Renaissance, Ritz Carlton, Waldorf Astoria, Westin and many others.
Its products are found in cruise ships, convention centres, casinos and public buildings from London to Las Vegas, Washington to Warsaw, Dallas to Dubai and Moscow to Montreal.