Belfast Telegraph

Shoppers from Republic saving fortune with border hop to Northern Ireland

As Christmas approaches, Newry benefits from a bonanza of southern bargain hunters

Bargain hunters from the Republic say they are saving hundreds by popping across the border to take advantage of the weak pound.

As Christmas approaches, floods of shoppers are heading north.

Many use the trip as an excuse for a family day out but say value for money is also a major draw.

The exchange rate currently sits at 84p a euro, but some shops are even offering a one-for-one deal.

The streets in Newry were bustling over the weekend as southern shoppers took to a city that sits just five miles north of the frontier.

Out at The Quays shopping centre were Shirley O'Neill and Marie Fagan from Dublin. They have been coming to Northern Ireland to shop since the 1980s and use the trips to visit family, but say the extra value has made it even more worthwhile.

Shirley was in Sainsbury's and said: "It's been good for buying presents and Christmas things - we've got some really good deals.

"I picked up a wreath, some Magners, some of the Victoria Secrets lotions for gifts - they're £5 here but they're €11 (£9.35) at home. And I got a beautiful Belleek lamp, it was reduced to £16 - I couldn't believe it.

"A lot of the shops are giving 85p a euro and some are even giving you 90p. I only had £16 in my pocket when I came up, I've spent more than that now but it hasn't added up to much."

Most shoppers said there were bargains around, but you had to do your homework.

Natalie Kenny, a member of cabin crew, from Balbriggan, said she was disappointed the cost of an Xbox had risen since she saw it online, but she was still one of the biggest savers. She spent around £400, but said it would have cost £150 more to buy the same items south of the border.

"You have to be careful. Sometimes the bargains aren't as good as you think," she said. "I saw the Xbox listed for £260 but when I came up to get it, it was nearly £100 dearer."

She said the console ended up costing almost £350. But despite her disappointment, she did find other good deals.

"I knew stuff from Next was much cheaper up here, because I peeled off the euro sticker on the store in Dublin," she said. "I was able to buy two pairs of jeans and bits and pieces for my daughter for Christmas. I got four or five things for £32 and it would have cost me about €60 at home."

The pound dropped against the euro following the UK's vote to leave the EU, but regained some strength following Donald Trump's election as US President.

Meanwhile, her husband Gerard was eyeing up a curved TV.

"It was £849, but to get the same in Dublin you'd be around €1,100 (£935)," he said.

Other big winners were young couple Bridget and Ian McSweeney, who said they saved several hundred euro on their £1,000 shop, which included a television.

Mrs McSweeney said: "It's because we're in the middle of moving house and getting ready for the baby that we've spent so much, but there have been some really good savings. There was a good deal on Moet Champagne, and we got a bottle of vintage Champagne a lot cheaper too - it would have been around €55 in Dublin but it only cost around €25 here."

And Co Cavan woman Gail Parsons said her daughter calculated the family would save around €300 (£255) on their £500 shop if they came to Northern Ireland, including money spent on fuel.

Retired businessman Frank Ward from Dundalk said that dried fruit and fruit juice were much cheaper in Northern Ireland. He estimated he had saved around €30 on his trolley-load.

Linda Sankey, a communications officer who had travelled from Dublin, said: "Everything costs around one-and-a-half times as much in Dublin, but it's a day out too - we come up twice a year and were in Banbridge earlier. Things are a lot cheaper up here."

Pauline McCormack and Anne Davern travelled to Newry from Ardee, but found some shops to be better than others.

Mrs McCormack said: "Penney's was a rip-off up here - the prices are much better at home. But other shops are good. I got a good deal on a gorgeous dress and a woollen wrap from another shop.

"Last week we were in The Outlet in Banbridge, but it was very expensive. Kildare Village is better.

"It only takes us around 30 minutes to drive here - it's just a fun day out for us. Some shops are offering one-for-one on the exchange rate, but they're more expensive ones anyway!"

Sales assistants Louise Kenny (24) and Selina Nugent (33) from Dublin made a family day of it, travelling with their partners and two babies - but said they were able to buy more for less last year.

Despite being from Dublin, one of their partners bumped into his niece at Buttercrane Shopping Centre.

Linda O'Neill, also from Dublin, agreed. She said: "I don't think it's as good as it used to be for shopping - you used to be able to come up here and save so much on wine, but now it's much the same as at home.

"And at home you can buy the wines you like, whereas up here you don't know what's good."

John Gildea's currency exchange shop Bureau Buttercrane is one of the first stops for many southern shoppers.

"We're seeing a lot of young families coming in and they're changing maybe €300 to €400, €500 maximum," he said.

"They're coming for a bit of a day out and variety in shops that they maybe wouldn't get outside of Dublin."

An online forum called Northern Ireland Bargain Alerts on Boards.ie has almost 4,000 replies on its most viewed thread, Shopping in Northern Ireland.

Tips include using cooler bags to transport frozen goods from Newry and changing currency in the Republic to avoid transaction fees.

One person even joked about leaving the kids at home and using a van to transport Christmas gifts.

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