The retail trade in Londonderry is being boosted by up to 35% by people from the Republic, leading traders have claimed.
While the bulk of Northern Ireland’s retailers are generally struggling, Donegal shoppers are flocking across the border.
Numbers are expected to increase further when the Republic introduces a new VAT rate of 23% — an increase of 2% — in January.
Foyleside Shopping Centre manager Fergal Rafferty said he is anticipating more than two million visitors to the city during November and December.
Speaking to the North West Telegraph, he added: “The number of people coming from the Irish Republic, but mostly Donegal, has risen by upwards of 35% at the weekends — but even during the week, that figure is still up by around 25%.
“It is very worthwhile to shop in Derry if you are from the Republic because savings of 20% are possible.
“If you are talking about a large item, such as a television, then it can be £200 plus on a single item. Once January brings in the increase in VAT in the Republic, that saving will be even more. We saw ourselves, the effect the increase on our VAT had on disposable income when it went up from 17.5 to 20%,” said Mr Rafferty.
“An increase of any size has an effect, especially in these recessionary times when people are being extra careful, so we fully expect the increase in the number of shoppers coming to the centre to carry on into next year.
“The atrocious weather last year has had an effect on people coming out to do their Christmas shopping early.
“They just don't want to be caught out again like last year and the mild weather we have enjoyed during November has helped too. All the traders in Foyleside are reporting significant increase in their Christmas stock.”
This good news tale was reiterated by the chairman of Derry's Independant Traders Association, Martin McCrossan, who said retailers were being very proactive about attracting people through their doors.
He explained: “When times are tough, you need to be inventive and proactive to stay in business and that is what many of the independent traders are doing.
“Most shops in Derry are now offering a better exchange rate on the euro than the banks and in some cases, it is even euro for pound. There are some amazing offers available, too, and the restaurants in particular have great deals of 30% off at the weekends and as much as 50% at the start of the week. Many people from across the border are taking up the offers and when they are in for a bite to eat, they are staying and doing some shopping.
“Derry and Donegal have always had a close relationship and that is no different when it come traders, so no-one in Derry likes to see the shop owners in Donegal suffering the extra hit they will when this increase in VAT comes into effect.”