The emigrant dollar prevented Irish sportswear firm O’Neills going into the red last year.
That is according to Paul Towell, the director of O’Neills, who confirmed that bumper sales of GAA tops to emigrant players competing for the likes of the Christchurch McKennas and the Kuwait Harps helped O’Neills’ export business increase by 25% last year.
The Australian, US, and UK markets were the best performers.
Mr Towell confirmed that exports now make up 20% of O’Neills’ annual revenues, with new figures showing that the Dublin-based group recorded a 17% drop in pre-tax profits last year to €285,432.
Accounts filed by Balbriggan Textiles Ltd show that the group recorded the drop in profits after its gross profit declined by 7.5%, from €8.7m to €8m, in the 12 months to the end of December last.
Separate accounts for O’Neills’ subsidiary in the North, O’Neills Irish International Sports Company Ltd, show that it enjoyed a more successful year, with pre-tax profits increasing from £403,810 to £425,241 (€481,100 to €506,600).
This followed gross profits at the firm last year increasing by 9%, from £3.3m to £3.64m. Accumulated profits at the firm topped £6m.
Long associated with the GAA since it was established on Dublin’s Capel St in 1918, the group today operates manufacturing plants in Strabane, Co Tyrone, and Walkinstown Avenue in Dublin.
Mr Towell said the continuing rise in exports and a slight pick-up in the home market this year had resulted in O’Neills increasing the number it employs for the first time in a number of years, rising from 520 to 530.
He confirmed O’Neills now has additional staff employed specifically targeting the export markets in Australia and the US as a result of the large numbers of Irish emigrating to those countries.
Mr Towell said: “Last year, the market was a little depressed here and the domestic business recorded a loss, but the export market resulted in the overall business recording a profit.”
Mr Towell said that the profits recorded last year “are relatively small compared to the profits the business was generating during the Celtic Tiger years”.
Mr Towell said that exports by O’Neills have increased fivefold over the past five years
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