Business Irish

Sunday 25 February 2018

Manufacturing sector picks up speed as economy expands

More small businesses are seeing improved trading conditions

Dublin goalkeeper and All-Star Gary Maguire is a customer of Torpey Hurleys
Dublin goalkeeper and All-Star Gary Maguire is a customer of Torpey Hurleys
John Torpey demonstrated Irish sporting prowess as GAA president Christy Cooney hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at Croke Park three years ago
John and Sean Torpey in their factory
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

"Our sales are up - but it's a hard sell because of the ash disease. Our costs have risen and the raw material has become scarcer," according to John Torpey, owner of Sixmilebridge-based Torpey Hurleys.

"Thankfully it's not as bad as anticipated in Ireland - but the ash trees for sale in Ireland, they won't be ready for another 15 or 20 years. I have to import the ash."

Torpey told the Sunday Independent that all his input costs are rising. "The cost of saw-milling, the haulage costs, every cost has gone up, so we had to naturally put up our prices."

A regular adult's hurley now costs €25 a pop, up from around €23. Children's hurleys have also been growing more expensive because of a trend in the game where children want to use a hurley with a bigger boss (the striking end of the hurley) in order to emulate the inter-county players.

The size increase has meant Torpey's machines have to make fewer hurleys at a time, but he is content with the state of the business. His son Sean has taken over the reins, and is driving sales by embracing a tool that many Irish businesses have been slow to adopt - the web.

"He's selling huge amounts of stuff online all around the world at the moment."

Torpey's hurls are rather famous, having been gifted to visiting dignitaries Barack Obama and the now Chinese President Xi Jinping. The company's experience chimes with Investec's latest purchasing managers' index (PMI) for the manufacturing industry, which showed output growth reaching a nine-month high in May.

Output prices rose but Investec said that for the industry as a whole the increase was "only marginal and slower than recorded in the previous month". Those who lifted output prices said this was largely due to higher input prices, reflecting the euro's weakness.

The May data showed a further rise in staffing levels at Irish manufacturing firms, with the rate of job creation slightly faster than in April. Almost a quarter of those surveyed by Investec reported a rise in employment

Investec Ireland chief economist Philip O'Sullivan said the outcome of the UK election was likely to be a positive for Irish manufacturers.

O'Sullivan said that last month Investec "identified the then upcoming UK general election as a key risk factor for the manufacturing sector here, given that polls had been pointing to a hung parliament and a resultant period of political uncertainty, with all that this would entail for sterling. In the event, the surprise overall majority achieved by the Conservatives has removed that risk, with the renewed strength in the pound relative to the single currency since the election providing a renewed tailwind for the 15pc of Irish merchandise exports that go to Ireland's next door neighbour."

Sunday Indo Business

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