O’Neill’s taps Limerick’s All-Ireland win with profit rise

Sales of Limerick jerseys in the county’s All-Ireland winning run and best-selling Galway jerseys helped sportswear firm O’Neill’s to increase profits and revenues in 2018.

That is according to finance director Paul Towell, who says that the sales of Limerick jerseys were amongst the best sellers this year.

Kerry jerseys also sold well.

Mr Towell said that O’Neills initially struggled to meet the demand for the Limerick jerseys because of the shortened All-Ireland hurling championship.

“There was less time in the lead-up to the All-Ireland for the production of the jerseys and that did make it difficult,” he said.

From a business point of view, O’Neill’s still prefers the old format of All-Ireland finals that reached its climax in September.

“Under this new trial format, there is less time for hype and excitement to be built up,” Mr Towell said.

Nonetheless, its best- selling jersey this year was Galway’s, selling more than 20,000, with sales boosted by its appealing camouflage- effect design.

O’Neill’s makes and knits the fabric for its jerseys in Strabane, Co Derry, and dyes them in Dublin.

Newly-filed accounts for 2017 show that the Dublin-registered O’Neill’s firm, Balbriggan Textiles Ltd posted a pre-tax profit of €1.58m.

That’s down slightly from 2016 when the sale of 1916 Commemoration jerseys had boosted revenues.

The gross profit of the Dublin-registered firm increased slightly, to almost €11.1m.

O’Neill’s company in the North, O’Neills Irish International Sports Ltd, posted a pre-tax profit of £1m (€1.12m). Its gross profit climbed by 9% to £5.9m in 2017.

Mr Towell said that 2018 revenues will be boosted by sales of new jerseys from Dublin, Mayo, Galway, Armagh, and Derry, though sales of new Dublin jerseys hadn’t been as strong as expected.

“This is down to some apathy as Dublin have won four All-Irelands in a row now,” he said.

Staff numbers at O’Neill’s firms across Ireland have increased to 860 people following the opening of new stores in Derry and Craigavon.

Mr Towell said that online sales now account for 15% of its total sales but that online sales had been “growing exponentially in recent years”.

The business continues to expand abroad and will begin a three-year shirt deal with Australian rugby union team, Brumbies.

But the great uncertainty for the business is Brexit. The company is putting on hold decisions concerning expansion plans as a result, Mr Towell said.

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