Co-host of one of RTÉ’s most popular shows 'Home of the Year' Hugh Wallace has said that fee income at the architectural business he co-owns “fell off the earth” during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The architect was commenting on new accounts for Douglas Wallace Consultants Ltd which show that post-tax profits at the firm more than halved to €63,733 in the 12 months to the end of June last.
The profits followed post-tax profits of €133,557 in the prior 12 months and reflecting on last year’s performance, Mr Wallace said: “It was a difficult year. Going into 2020, we had a full book and 50 per cent was in hospitality and that was cancelled.
“Fee income fell off the earth and we had to re-adjust, reduce staff numbers and the Covid-19 payments from Government were a great help.
"To be totally honest, our business has only recently returned since January and there is hope in the hospitality sector that business is back.”
Mr Wallace said that while revenues decreased 50 per cent during the Covid-hit financial year last year, the firm’s business is now recovering.
Mr Wallace also fronts another RTÉ prime-time show 'The Great House Revival' and said that his profile is good for the firm’s business.
“So when I go to meetings, I’m asked ‘can I take your photograph, my wife loves your show’. They are trying to look at the football and the wife has the show on.”
'Healthy' order book
Mr Wallace said that his company has just completed a refurbishment of Kevin and Catherine Dundon’s Dunbrody House Hotel in Co Wexford. “The result is just terrific," he said.
“Our order book is healthy and we have been staffing up which is very difficult, as the market is currently bananas in terms of recruiting people.
“Pre-Covid, we employed 16 to 18 employees and that dropped down to 11 and that is now back up to 15.”
Mr Wallace said that it is difficult to recruit people across a range of industries “as I think what Covid did was that it woke people up to an alternative lifestyle and that maybe they have less money but maybe they are happier”.
On building inflation's impact on the business, Mr Wallace said: “There are issues in the market concerning the availability of builders and it is difficult to get a fixed price contract so clients on large scale developers are nervous."
He said his firm was involved in a substantial number of planning gains last year.
“From that point I am very optimistic, but all stake-holders are dealing with a dysfunctional planning system. At the moment, some of the permissions we have in have gone to An Bord Pleanala and we are waiting one year for a decision and that is outrageous.”
Mr Wallace said that the appeals board has been overstretched by the Strategic Housing Development (SHD) process.
At the end of last June, the company's accumulated profits totalled €418,664 while the company’s cash funds increased from €507,052 to €548,170.
The Covid-19 impact on the company’s business resulted in the firm paying out dividends of €13,009 last year compared to dividends of €125,000 in the prior year.