Belfast Telegraph

Wool price making life difficult, says Ulster carpet firm

By Margaret Canning

Ulster Carpet Mills welcomed the election of a "business-friendly government" as it announced pre-tax profits of £7m for the year to March 31, 2015 - up from £6.5m a year earlier.

The luxury carpet company's turnover had fallen slightly from £62.3m to £61m and the firm was facing tough conditions, including the rising cost of wool, according to a report and financial statements filed at Companies House.

The third-generation family firm employs around 516 people at its base in Craigavon. Exports have become a major focus for the firm, with a particular focus on the Arabian Gulf.

Its carpets have also adorned hotels in some of the world's high-end chains, including the Crowne Plaza, Intercontinental, Waldorf Astoria and Ritz Carlton.

Chairman Edward Wilson, whose parents founded the company, said sales were down slightly, but profit-before tax was up 8.7% in the year to March 31, 2015. "Our plants ran at nearly full capacity for much of the year and we saw increases in sales in most areas in which we trade," his chairman's statement in the report said.

"This excellent result is all the more commendable in the context of several of our competitors persisting in offering product at prices which do not reflect anything like the real costs of design and manufacture."

But he said European markets were unpredictable. "Trading conditions with the euro bloc countries continue to be difficult, reflecting their failure to achieve growth in GDP. The cost of our main raw material, wool, continued to increase during the year and the pound sterling strengthened in value against both the US dollar and the euro."

Customers were prepared to pay top dollar for its products and "generally tend to recognise and appreciate that Ulster Carpets offer a unique blend of design and product expertise together with a long record of reliability".

Looking ahead, he said the new year had started well, with strong trading in its main markets and a good pipeline of orders.

And he expressed gladness that a majority Conservative Government had won the UK general election.

"The UK economy appears to be continuing to improve and this, together with the impact of the election of a business-friendly government, should help to increase overall demand for our high quality products."

Belfast Telegraph