Northern Ireland’s hospitality sector is expecting one of its busiest day of the year tomorrow and many other sectors are looking to cash in on St Patrick’s Day to raise their profiles and sales.
While the economic uplift is spread around Northern Ireland, Downpatrick, the location of the grave of the patron saint, is one of the biggest winners.
Its week-long St Patrick’s Festival pulls in 35,000 visitors and generates £1m for the Down district.
Orla Jackson, chief executive of Newry’s Chamber of Commerce, said the city also gets thousands of people |attending its parade.
“There is a really good buzz around Newry on St Patrick’s Day,” she said.
“It is the busiest day of the year for bars and restaurants in Newry — nowhere takes bookings on St Patrick’s Day |because of it. It’s a huge economic |benefit.”
Stephen Magorrian, managing director of pub company Botanic Inns, said toasting Ireland’s patron saint — and the sporting events which coincide with St Patrick’s Day — meant a bumper day for many of the company’s 13 pubs, most of which are in the Belfast area.
“It would rival one of the big days over Christmas. The Botanic Inn [south Belfast] doubles what it gets on a normal day — in fact, it’s one of the biggest days of the year for The Bot. As it can be a double day as far as takings go, we would miss St Patrick’s Day if it wasn’t there.”
The St Patrick’s Day effect is also being felt at Belfast International Airport. Flights to New York are busy and shoppers are also buying souvenir Irish paraphernalia at the airport’s shops.
Deborah Matchett, the airport’s marketing manager, said Ireland’s rugby fixtures in the Six Nations are also having an impact as passengers snap up Ireland rugby shirts, while WH Smith is selling shamrock to those who want to wear their love of St Patrick on their lapel.
Enda Corneille from Aer Lingus agrees the day has a positive impact on tourism.
“It's a terrific opportunity to market the island of Ireland. We have co-operative advertising with Tourism Ireland in the US and in key European points to coincide with St Patrick's Day.
“Really it's to use the hook of St Patrick’s Day, after it happens, to really plug in April, May and June and deliver business then.”
Companies selling traditional Irish foods also experience a benefit.
Michael Murphy, commercial controller at Irwin’s Bakery, said St Patrick’s Day provides it with around 15% growth in local sales.
“For the two week period in March, we carry out a number of intensive PR and marketing initiatives, including price-led promotions and themed events, which help to bring our Irish breads to the fore in all of our markets.
“In recent years we have won awards for these types of campaigns such as Proud 2 Be Pat, which inspired over 1100 proud Patricks to gather in Trafalgar Square on St Patrick’s Day 2008 — smashing the world record for the biggest number of people with the same name in the same place.”
Grace’s Irish Biscuits makes shamrock-shaped shortbread and oatmeal biscuits, which are normally sold in specialist food shops and Sainsbury’s, but are also listed in Tesco at a promotional price in the run-up to St Patrick’s Day.
Grace Bullock, the company’s sales and marketing director, said: “It really helps us with brand awareness and means people can try us out at a discount price.”
The business also sells to an importer in New York, and is planning special promotions in the US for next year.
This year, lottery winner Peter Lavery is hoping to ride on the coattails of the massive St Patrick’s celebrations in the US by launching his Danny Boy Whiskey in New York.
Hilden Brewery in Dunmurry, meanwhile, said it had developed red ale Gael Rua for JD Wetherspoons in the UK.
A spokesman for the company said the new ale was part of a concerted campaign to build business in Britain and the Republic.