Middle East exporter swaps singing sheep for racehorses

The Universal Trailers team, based in Billingshurst (submitted).
The Universal Trailers team, based in Billingshurst (submitted).

Wealthy Middle East tycoons are snapping up trailers exported from Billingshurst for their prized racehorses.

As distributors for Ifor Williams Trailers, Unlimited Trailers, off Coneyhurst Road, is riding the crest of a growing export trade to Oman, Saudi Arabia and Dubai.

The firm is forging strong links with the rapidly growing equestrian industry in that part of the world.

One Middle East customer recently asked that his trailer be shipped in the same container as his other purchase, a Bentley limousine.

Mark Betts, director at Universal Trailers said: “Interest in horses is huge in the Middle East and the potential for business out there is massive.”

Andrew Reece-Jones, design engineering manager, was delighted with the burgeoning export opportunities in the Middle East.

As well as being sold through a network of 50 UK companies, the trailers are also exported all over the world with distributors across mainland Europe and as far afield as Australia and New Zealand.

Ifor Williams trailers themselves are manufactured in North Wales.

Mr Reece-Jones said: “The growing export market in the Middle East is great news.

“Our trailers have the well-deserved reputation of being very sturdy and long-lasting trailers. They are well engineered.

“It is gratifying that we are doing well in a market where our hallmark of quality is appreciated.”

The trailers are shipped out from Southampton and transported in containers with the wheels and axles removed. Some customers have requested the trailers be packed with horsefood and other equestrian products.

Established as a family business in 1982, Universal Trailers is one of the UK’s largest retailers of new and used trailers.

Another unusual request saw the company provide a trailer for a television advertisement for the new Volkswagen Passat in 2009, which showed sheep singing as they were being transported.

It was shot near Canary Wharf in London and Universal Trailers had to make certain amendments to the trailer to achieve the desired effect of the sheep with their heads sticking out of the side as the Passat cruised past.

Mr Betts said: “We did that, and it attracted far more interest than was initially imagined.”

In the past few years trade has grown substantially and the twin-axle models, designed to carry two horses, have been among the most popular.

Mr Betts added: “Through our Middle East contact we have also sent a consignment of used horse trailers to Libya, but they specified we must not send any green ones because that was Colonel Gaddafi’s favourite colour.

“The level of interest in equestrian sports including endurance racing and polo is massive and some of the horse shows are enormous.”

For more information visit www.universal-trailers.co.uk or call 01403 782862.