A £6.2 million investment by Ulster Weavers Apparel in the further development of its linen and other fabric brands through innovation, increased exports and efficiency improvements will benefit the company’s operations in Belfast, Banbridge, Castlewellan and Dungannon, Leslie Morrison, Chief Executive of Invest Northern Ireland, said today.

Mr Morrison announced the Invest NI-backed expansion with Declan Gormley, Ulster Weavers Apparel Managing Director, during a visit to one of the company’s recent acquisitions, Ballievey at Banbridge.

Said Mr Morrison: “To build on existing successes and to achieve its objective of gaining recognition as a worldclass business, Ulster Weavers Apparel is implementing a comprehensive strategy that will enhance its capability in new product development, sales and marketing and productivity.

“The company has been quick to recognise the value of the Action Plan developed by international experts Kurt Salmon Associates for the future development of the textiles and clothing sector. It is implementing many of these recommendations.

“Invest NI is working closely with Ulster Weavers Apparel and, through our Principles for Business Support, offered the company a customised business solution geared to help management achieve sustainable growth,“ he added.

Mr Gormley, commenting on the new investment, said; “Overall, this represents a significant investment by the group in knowledge-led aspects of the business such as new product design and development, innovative finishing, improvement techniques and export marketing.”

“We have been working with Kurt Salmon Associates on a strategic investment that will keep us at the leading-edge of textiles manufacturing.

“This has involved substantial investment in management and financial control expertise, quality systems, production, weaving flexibility, innovative product development in finishing and dyeing and marketing to add significant value to our fabric portfolio and boost sales to strategic partners and other customers.

“It will complete the integration of our most recent acquisitions, Ballievey in Banbridge and Moygashel in Dungannon, within the group. By enabling us to undertake all fabric production processes in-house, it will also provide a significant competitive advantage, particularly in the supply of genuine Irish Linen to the international apparel and furnishings markets.

“We aim to maximise market opportunities for Irish Linen through the development of existing products, the continued development of our new brand, Linen Essentials, and our strategic partnership with DuPont on the highly innovative Irish Linen plus Lycra fabric brand. This will enable us to offer customers a broader range of higher value and technically advanced fabrics” he added.