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Border shops hoping weak pound will see trickle from Republic becoming a flow

By Mark O'Regan

Published 18/07/2016

Traffic crosses the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland
Traffic crosses the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland

Shoppers from the Republic who travel north can save up to 50% on selected items in their weekly groceries bill.

As the Brexit debate continues, the gap between the pound and the euro has widened significantly in recent weeks.

Yesterday the euro was trading at 84p against sterling.

But retailers in Northern Ireland said the latest trek north is "more a trickle than a flow" and there has been no major exodus from large population centres like Dublin.

However, increased numbers of those living relatively close to the border are travelling to towns like Newry and Banbridge for routine purchases such as food and alcohol.

A comparison between Tesco prices in Dublin and Banbridge show a range of items cheaper in the north.

Retailers in Northern Ireland are hoping the new currency gap will entice consumers from further afield to make more big-ticket purchases such as electronics and furniture. A number of outlets in Newry and Banbridge currently have posters in their shop windows stating the exchange rate they have on offer for the euro against sterling.

Roisin Rooney, who works for The Flower Barrow outlet in The Quays shopping centre in the Co Down city, confirmed increased interest from the Republic in recent days.

"Shoppers can definitely get better value. Their money goes much further. Let's hope it continues," she said.

Meanwhile, Sinead McKernan, manager in the Chapelle jewellery store in The Outlet, Banbridge, also reported a modest growth in footfall brought about by cross-border shoppers.

"It's definitely worth their while for people to travel north because everything works out cheaper.

"There has definitely been an increase in numbers over the past couple of weeks, but it's still not like it used to be," she said.

She said competitive pricing for items like diamonds and jewellery would always be a particular draw.

And Jimmy Nevin from the Naul, Co Dublin, who made the journey northwards, commented: "To make this whole thing worthwhile you really need to buy in bulk.''

Traditionally, grocery prices in Northern Ireland have been significantly cheaper than those in the Republic.

A comparison of some Tesco prices this week confirmed the continuing gap between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

For example, Kellogg's Special K in Northern Ireland costs £2.99 (€3.58), and in the south costs €6.49 (£5.43).

Ritz crackers in Northern Ireland were priced at £1 (€1.19) compared with €2 (£1.67) in the Republic.

Kettle Chips would set you back £1.98 (€2.37) in Northern Ireland compared with €2.49 (£ 2.08) in the south.

Fairy Liquid costs £1 (€1.19) up north, compared to €2.19 (£1.83) in the Republic.

Back in 2009 shoppers from the Republic flocked to Northern Ireland when at one stage the euro neared parity with sterling.

That outflow of business caused major problems for retailers in border towns such as Dundalk.

A recent survey from Irish Revenue and Customs chiefs indicates the cost of alcohol and tobacco has climbed in the south over the past year, while the price of identical products in Northern Ireland has fallen.

However, the cost of petrol, diesel and home heating fuel had declined on both sides of the border following a drop in international oil prices.

Belfast Telegraph

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