Belfast Telegraph

Republic's tills ringing as Northern Ireland shoppers cash in on great euro rate

By Claire McNeilly

Northern Ireland shoppers are heading across the border in their droves to take advantage of the exchange rate in the run-up to Christmas.

There are also reports of a surge in office parties being booked in the Republic so cash-strapped consumers can get more bang for their buck.

This represents a complete reversal of the cross-border Christmas shopping phenomenon of 2008 (when £1 was equal to 1€; whereas today 1€ is worth 72p), which saw massive motorway queues as shoppers from the Republic flocked to Londonderry, Strabane, Enniskillen and Newry to stock up on goods.

Now it is southern retailers - particularly in counties along the border - who have been seeing a substantial hike in the number of northern registrations and sterling payments at shopping outlets over the past few months.

Harry Traynor, manager of The Marshes in Dundalk, Co Louth, said the shopping centre's car park had been operating at full capacity for the past two weekends.

"Being on the floor, I hear a lot more northern accents than ever before and retailers are seeing an uplift in sterling spend of around 12%," he said.

"From February onwards we have definitely felt the benefit of our northern catchment area, with a lot of transactions not necessarily in cash but via debit and credit cards.

"There's no doubting that those consumers are benefiting from up to 30% extra spending power, and that's not to be sniffed at."

Mr Traynor said that, having attracted new tenants such as H&M, Diesel and Vera Moda, The Marshes currently has few vacant retail outlets.

"We're doing very well now and we're seeing a total role reversal of 2008/09 when southern shoppers went to Northern Ireland in search of bargains," he added.

Toni Forrester, CEO of Letterkenny Chamber of Commerce, said the town has been very busy throughout the year.

"People - especially those from Strabane and Derry - are definitely crossing the border to shop," she said.

"Our car parks and shopping centres have been very busy, and recently they've been getting busier.

"We've also seen local shoppers from places like Inishowen, who would have traditionally shopped in Northern Ireland, coming to Letterkenny instead.

"There's no incentive for anyone earning euros to spend in sterling."

Ms Forrester said hotels in Co Donegal were reporting increased bookings for Christmas parties from Northern Ireland office workers .

"The other thing hoteliers have said is that weekend deals have been snapped up," the Chamber of Commerce chief added.

"Mini-breaks have been selling out and people have been spending money in local shops, bars and restaurants, so it has definitely been a good year for retail and hospitality."

A spokeswoman for the four-star Clanree Hotel in Letterkenny said there had been a hike in Christmas party bookings from across the border.

"We've seen an increase in people coming from the Tyrone area and further afield because they're getting great value for money," she said.

"It has been a big help to our Christmas trade this year and we're almost fully booked."

Michael Murphy Sports and Leisure is one of the Letterkenny traders benefiting from the current exchange rate.

Martin Sweeney, the sports shop's manager, said: "We have definitely had a lot more customers from across the border over the last few months."


worth of €1 to Northern Ireland shoppers and revellers


rise in sterling spend in border shops in Republic

Belfast Telegraph