Northern Ireland’s border retailers gear up for a euro boost this Christmas
Northern Ireland’s border retailers are gearing up for a Christmas bounty, as southern traders fail to stem the flow of traffic northwards.
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New TNS Worldpanel research has shown that almost a quarter of a million Irish householders are now regularly grocery shopping in Northern Ireland, up 25% since the end of last year.
Between December 2008 and September 2009, an extra 50,000 homeowners have joined the queues of southern-registered vehicles crossing the border to shop.
Towns such as Newry, Enniskillen and Londonderry have been protected from the ravages of recession by these so-called ‘euro-tourists’ spending their cash.
And — with a favourable euro/sterling exchange rate and lower VAT rate — it’s almost impossible to foresee that trend changing in the festive period.
There has also been a huge increase in cross-border alcohol shopping, according to figures from Nielsen Ireland. Ulster off-license sales have soared 30% in the year to August, while off-sales in the South have slumped by 7%.
Bargain-hunters are not, however, restricted to booze if they want to save money. Ladies’ fashions, footwear, menswear and homeware are considerably cheaper in some stores here, as a Belfast Telegraph study revealed last month.
Price Watch travelled to Newry in Co Down and Dundalk in neighbouring Co Louth to compare the price of identical items in eight well-known retailers operating in both countries. Located just 15 miles apart, our straw poll of 20 products nevertheless revealed savings of up to 53% for shoppers from the Republic.
So it hardly comes as a surprise that figures compiled by InterTrade Ireland, a north-south business development body, show the proportion of southern-registered cars in shopping centre carparks in Newry, Enniskillen and Derry has increased from 40-50% over the summer, to 70% now.
Some shoppers from the |Republic are now venturing even further up the road to Banbridge, Co Down, where a discount mall promises even bigger savings.
Last bank holiday weekend, southerners accounted for half the customers at The Outlet shopping complex and they contributed to 80% of all purchases.
Indeed, certain stores in the complex have reported a surge by as much as 43% in wedding-related goods.
Centre manager Euan Forbes said The Outlet has plenty to offer discerning shoppers everywhere.
“Guests are going to more and more weddings — yet everyone needs to tighten their belts,” he said. “We are seeing a lot of wedding couples and guests shopping here, especially at weekends as many are travelling from the Republic to take advantage of the strength of the Euro.”
The news comes as Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said there will be no repeat of last year’s mass exodus from south to north in the run up to Christmas.
Mr Lenihan said he is confident that the expected ending of the UK VAT reductions as well as increased taxes will dampen the allure of heading north.