People from the Republic are making flying trips — quite literally – up north to get their teeth done.
But dental work is just one of a myriad of goods and services on offer to our southern neighbours for a fraction of the price being charged across the border.
The cost of almost everything, from cameras to haircuts and wine to baby products, is cheaper, but it appears the most substantial savings can be made on cars — up to around £10,000.
Some major dealers have reported a significant surge in car sales to the south as a result of the euro’s strength against sterling and the recent Vat cut.
Indeed, Charles Hurst managing director Andy Bruce said one in five cars bought from its dealer network in January were exported to the Republic.
“There has been a massive increase in interest from the south and a significant increase in sales volume,” he said.
“Inquires have gone up by thousands of per cent in recent months compared with a handful previously. An educated estimate would be that around 20% of sales in January were to the south.”
Mr Bruce added: “The saving that can be made obviously varies between models, but is upwards of 20% on average.”
Owing, in part, to the exodus of shoppers from the south, car sales in the Republic were by contrast down by a massive 64% in the first week of the year.
Northern dealers are harnessing the buying power of southern shoppers by advertising south of the border for the first time. Many have set up dedicated websites for southern buyers.
Over in the hospitality industry, Europa general manager James McGinn said visitors from the Republic are proving the perfect antidote to the usual post-Christmas downturn.
“There is a real opportunity for hotels in the north to offer and attract people from the south based on the euro’s position,” he said.
“We’ve seen a 25% pick up in rooms because of southerners coming up, in what would normally be a quieter time. Since Christmas we’re filling up every Saturday night and in the majority the southern market would be the most dominant.”
Mr McGinn said the influx of new trade has led to the introduction of an innovative, tailor-made service called ‘Lazy Sundays’.
“We came up with this new concept, or selling point, which came into effect during the second week in January,” he added.
“For a £40 fee, clients can check out at 5pm which they say they appreciate as it allows them to spend some extra time at the shops. It’s called eurovision; you have to be visionary to go out and take up euro opportunities.”
Meanwhile, Ryan Foster, general manager at Jurys Inn Hotel in Belfast, has reported a Friday night rush when it comes to this new trend of so-called ‘overnighting’.
“We would have a lot of last-minute pick-up at the weekend, with clients leaving booking early on Saturday morning to go shopping,” he said.
“Our occupancy in January was up 5% on the previous year and a good proportion of that is down to southerners. The Republic provides us with between 25% and 30% of our total custom at the moment.”
Dentists are also reporting a rapid increase in patients from the Republic, because of the huge savings on treatment.
Jim Braden, of Braden Dental care in Belfast, has most notably seen a huge surge of new patients coming from far-flung parts of Ireland, which he said reflects the slide of sterling against the euro.
“We’ve had patients from Cork and Kerry, although the majority come from the corridor down to Dublin and Dublin itself,” he said.
“A lot of people are coming by car and train, although we do have clients who take the plane. They tell us it’s worthwhile financially to fly from Cork, for example, get treatment and go back.
“We’ve been operating for six years and have always had patients from the south, but recently 50% of our new clients have been from the Republic and that’s quite a big statistic. They come for the prices and the quality of work.”
Hairdressers are cashing in, proving that money is driving the cross-border savings craze.
Salon owner Michael Quinn said that for the past few months there has been a 20% in customers from all over Ireland.
“We’ve had clients from the south for years, who make the trip every six weeks,” he said.
“But over the last six months we’ve noticed a 20% increase in people coming from all areas, such as Kerry, Dundalk, Donegal and Carlingford. The euro/sterling exchange rate has certainly helped encourage more people to come up north, in search of value for money.”
Attractive savings and top class service will continue to lure more and more southern visitors, according to Michael.
“The credit crunch means that what hairdressers offer in the north — such as colouring — is a lot more affordable.”