Commemorative 1916 jersey lifts O’Neill’s profits

By Gordon Deegan

Pre-tax profits at Irish sportswear giant O’Neill’s trebled to €1.85m in 2016, largely driven by huge sales of its commemorative green jersey to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising.

The special edition jersey — featuring a harp on the front and the 1916 proclamation on the back — was the brainchild of O’Neill’s finance director and co-owner Paul Towell and his brother Andrew, who had initially targeted the sale of around 5,000 jerseys.

The jersey clocked sales of over €2m.

“We just got lucky with it. We were pleasantly surprised by how well it did.

“We had no idea how it was going to go but we sold 1,000 on the first night they were put on sale online. That is unheard of.

“It became by far the biggest selling jersey we have sold in our 100 years and we nearly had to wait for 100 years for that to happen,” said Paul Towell.

February, March, April, and May are usually a quiet time of year for the business but its production plants were “at full stretch” during that time in 2016 to meet the demand for the 1916 jersey.

“It was a great success and 100% the reason why our profits increased.”

The profit only covers O’Neill’s business in the Republic. Mr Towell said profits for 2017 were not as high as the previous year and expressed fears over Brexit.

“The only negative on the horizon is Brexit and we would be very concerned over a ‘no deal’. We have trucks going back and forth all the time. It is a huge concern for us if tariffs are going to be imposed.”

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