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Business Briefs McNicholas heads giftware group

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Harry Keaney

When most people hear of the GAA, they think of the Gaelic games organization founded in Thurles, Co. Tipperary, in 1884, and which has headquarters in Croke Park in Dublin. But there’s another GAA, founded in 1952 with its headquarters in the U.S. It’s the Gift Association of America, located in Collegeville, Pa.

Now, it has got a new advisory board, the chairman of which is Mayoman Michael McNicholas, senior vice president, consumer products for North America with Enterprise Ireland.

The Gift Association of America is the oldest and largest association in the gift industry. Its members include retail store owners, wholesalers and affiliates.

The new board has been set up to assist the GAA with future plans and direction. "The Gift Association of America has been undergoing a major restructure since March of this year year," Michael Russo, chairman and president of the organization, said.

McNicholas is responsible for supporting the U.S. sales activity of more than 380 Irish consumer product companies, most of them in giftware, which have combined annual U.S. sales of $340 million.

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From 1995-96, McNicholas was president of the Irish Business Organization of New York.

Building Society dance

The Irish America Building Society of New York will hold its third annual dinner dance on May 19 in the grand ballroom of the New York Hilton. The IABS will honor industry leaders Brian Dugan, senior vice president of real estate and construction at PaineWebber, and James Fitzgerald, president of James E. Fitzgerald, Inc., general contractors.

Proceeds from the dinner dance will benefit the IABS scholarship fund and selected charities. Details, call (212) 613-0090.

Checking in, via e-mail

One in three hotels in Ireland does not have an email or a web address and booking and paying for a room via the internet is not yet commonplace, according to CERT, the Irish hotel and catering training agency.

CERT has launched a campaign to develop online tourism.

"The use of the internet is a quick, cost effective and controllable method of marketing any business and this initiative will enhance Ireland’s marketability abroad even further,” Tourism, Sport and Recreation Minister Jim McDaid said.

Meanwhile, the internet is becoming more and more a part of the travel business, particularly when it comes to booking holidays.

"Travel and tourism is expected to be one of the primary areas where consumers will be at the forefront of adopting and applying e-commerce as part of their daily lives," said Shaun Quinn, chief executive of CERT. "Global online travel bookings alone are expected to treble by the year 2001.”

He said online booking of accommodation is also gathering momentum, and that will demonstrate to tourism businesses the advantages of using the web and how to implement e-commerce principles.

A shot for Jameson

Worldwide sales growth of Jameson, the Irish whiskey brand of Groupe Pernod Ricard, was a modest 1 per cent last year.

The ending of duty-free purchasing from July for travelers living in the European Union cost the brand an extra 120,000 case sales, although total volumes at 1.21 million cases were a record.

Excluding the duty-free business, sales were 10 percent ahead of the previous year growing by 10 percent in the United States and by 7 percent in the rest of the world.

Richard Burrows, chairman and chief executive of Irish Distillers, the subsidiary that distills Pernod Ricard’s Irish brands, told a news briefing at the Old Jameson Distillery in Dublin that Jameson was now the world’s "fastest growing" whiskey brand.

Martin Riley, head of international sales and marketing, told the group’s annual results presentation that the target was to build sales to 2 million cases by the year 2007.

Johnnie Walker Red is the world’s top-selling whiskey brand at circa 7 million cases.

Smurfit and Murdoch

News International and Smurfit have jointly purchased a 10-acre site from Kells Urban District Council, in County Meath, for £600,000 where they intend to build a £40 million modern printing plant.

The two companies are considering an 80,000-square-foot facility at a cost of £40 million.

Fruit of the Loom

For Fruit of the Loom, it seems the problems are compounding. The apparel company, which has had extensive operations in Ireland, is now operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Last week came the announcement that the company posted a net loss of $398.5 million, compared with a loss of $11 million in the fourth quarter of 1998. Sales fell 6 percent to $457 million.

In recent times, more than half the company’s 2,000 employees in Ireland have lost their jobs. The company has operations mainly in Donegal and Derry.

The company is also in dispute with its former CEO, William Farley, to recover a $65 million loan.

According to a recent report in the New York Times, Farley drew hundreds of millions of dollars from the company during his 14 years of control. But Farley said he thought his compensation was fair and "obviously the board did."

As regards loans he obtained, he said they are standard perks in corporate America. He added that people are forgetting that he was the visionary who acquired Fruit of the Loom in a leveraged buyout in 1985 and built its sales to $2 billion.

Fruit of the Loom is based in Grand Cayman and has offices in Chicago and Bowling Green, Ky.

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