Ulster Carpets has said it’s guardedly optimistic about the future despite the Covid-19 pandemic contributing to a fall in pre-tax profits from £8.2m to just under £1m.
Revenue at the Portadown firm, one of Northern Ireland’s best-known family businesses, fell by 3% from £74.3m to £72.2m in the year to the end of March 2020.
The period includes the first few months of the global Covid-19 pandemic, which even in its early stages had hit key markets for the woven carpets company, such as hotels and cruise ships.
But the company told the Belfast Telegraph there were now “early signs of recovery in the global hospitality sector”, citing recent projects at Atlantis Resort, Dubai; The Grove, Hertfordshire; Hilton Prague and Hilton Vienna Park.
It said some projects were recent wins and others had been completed over the last 12 months.
Ulster Carpets has 600 staff after shedding around 70 jobs last year following the outbreak of Covid-19. It has around 300 staff in Portadown and the remainder in operations in London, Paris, Dubai and the US.
The family-owned company was set up in 1938.
In February last year, the company acquired Axminster Carpets’ Devon-based underlay business Axfelt.
The accounts for group business Ulster Carpet Mills (Holdings) have now been filed at Companies House.
Writing in the accounts, chairman John Wilson said the firm had been anticipating a solid year of trading as it entered the beginning of 2020, the last few months of its financial year.
“The global impact of Covid-19 was becoming very apparent by February, but the true size and scale was hard to envisage, and we responded rapidly and effectively and with strenuous efforts to maintain the strength of the balance sheet.”
He said that the retail markets in the UK and Europe had returned strongly “but the contract markets are less certain in keeping with the effects of the pandemic on the hospitality sector”.
“It is impossible to predict how things will pan out in the next six months apart from to say it is unlikely to be straightforward.”
The group also owns Griffith Textile Machines, wool processing and dyeing specialist Ulster Yarns, commercial manufacturer Danfloor — which carries out some of its manufacturing in Denmark — and interiors brand Roger Oates.
Dr John Wilson, also an NHS doctor, said: “The directors will continue to monitor the risk and challenges presented by Covid-19 and will seek every opportunity to reduce any exposure to the slowdown in economic activity and reduced consumer demand.”
He added: “In summary, it looks like the Covid-19 pandemic will take some time to properly abate and so the immediate 12-18 months ahead will be potentially difficult. However, backed by strong cash reserves and an ongoing investment programme, we look to the future with guarded optimism.”