Belfast Telegraph

Fears over cross-border shopping

Fears are rising that shoppers were again crossing the border to stock up on alcohol in the run-up to Christmas.

Official figures revealed 14% of households made at least one shopping trip to the north in a year, spending an estimated £356 million.

Household goods remained the most common buy, with 77% of visitors purchasing groceries, followed by alcohol (44%) and clothing (40%).

Rosemary Garth, of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI), said more recent industry data indicates a significant growth in off-sales in Northern Ireland in September while it fell the Republic.

"This would appear to suggest that cross-border shopping is again on the rise and is likely to increase in advance of Christmas," said Ms Garth.

"The drinks industry therefore is calling on the Government to reduce excise by 20% to prevent further loss of revenue to Northern Ireland and to encourage southern shoppers to shop locally."

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) recorded a 2% drop in cross-border shoppers in the 12 months up to June, compared to the previous year when an estimated £370m was spent. But the frequency of trips rose to 8.6, up from 6.7.

"While there was a decline in the proportions of households making shopping trips to Northern Ireland, this was offset by the fact that households who were making trips were doing so more than previously," the CSO said in its quarterly national household survey.

However Retail Ireland revealed members have seen a drop in cross-border shoppers since the survey was completed, between April and June.

Director Torlach Denihan maintained the combined effect of retailers lowering prices, the stronger sterling, and the cut in excise on spirits in last year's budget have kept consumers at home. "A lot of people tried it (cross-border shopping) for a while, it was a day out," said Mr Denihan. "But people now feel it wasn't adding up as much as it was. It was hassle, it took time, a day out of a weekend off work. They were sitting in crowded car parks and petrol became more expensive."

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