Fashion clients of an e-commerce firm are enjoying a quadrupling of sales from the Republic as Northern Ireland retailers benefit from the post-Brexit landscape, it's been claimed.
Philip Macartney, chief commercial officer of IRP Commerce, urged retailers here to exploit the "crack in the armour" of big retail businesses like John Lewis which have put their deliveries to the island of Ireland on hold due to post-Brexit demands.
He also urged the political parties in NI to promote the opportunities posed by the NI Protocol. It has effectively created an Irish Sea border, with checks and paperwork for goods coming from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
Mr Macartney said: "We absolutely do need to see more from our politicians talking about the opportunity. At IRP we're hardwired to see opportunity and our retailers tend to gravitate towards that. Across the board we went to see more from our political leadership.
"We have a massive opportunity to be a conduit for trade between the Republic and the UK and Europe."
IRP provides the online platform for retailers to sell online. Mr Macartney said that since Brexit, clothing retailers DV8, which has branches all over Ireland, and Jonzara in Lisburn, had reported soaring sales from the Republic.
He said trading was now "through the roof" for fashion retailers in Northern Ireland selling into the Republic.
Jonzara's average order from the Republic was now € 95, while customers of DV8 in the Republic were spending €60.
Like in Northern Ireland, non-essential retail in the Republic has been shut since the latest lockdown began at Christmas.
And since Brexit, many online retailers in Great Britain have either withdrawn temporarily from supplying customers in the Republic - while department store Debenhams, which is facing liquidation, stopped serving the market completely.
Packages which are sent from Great Britain to the Republic are also subject to Vat and Customs & Excise fees.
Consumer parcels to Northern Ireland from Great Britain up to the value of £135 will be free from customs processes until the start of April when a grace period runs out.
Mr Macartney said customers weren't just buying the leisurewear which has grown in popularity during lockdowns while people work from home and have almost no options for socialising.
"People in the south might now be buying occasionwear as they are either wanting to look good for Zoom calls, or because people are thinking that because the end of lockdown is in sight, it's time to update the wardrobe."
Sales from the Republic for Jonzara and DV8 had risen between three and four-fold over the last six weeks, he said.
"As much as I want to put that down to IRP, there are cultural issues there arising from Brexit.
"Some of the larger companies have either gone bust or stepped back and it really has opened up the opportunity for cross-border trade.
"It's a huge, huge opportunity. We have great e-commerce infrastructure here and we are very well-set up because of good transportation links.
"When I see these figures for Jonzara and DV8, I think those are just the green shoots of what we could grow here.
"It's about ambitious retailers seeing the opportunity and going for it."
And he said that business now had a responsibility to "guide that conversation" to encourage politicians to promote the protocol.
"It has now levelled the playing field for the smaller retailers to get online.
"There is now a crack in the armour for the really big retailers, and smaller traders should be saying, 'this is my opportunity to trade'.
"There is an almost infinite global market for SMEs," he added.
"I think we've really hit a sweet spot and it will be easier for SMEs with the big boys out of the picture."
He added: "Ultimately our IRP Insights show that our Irish customers, such as DV8 and Jonzara have an excellent opportunity to sell to their domestic market and outperform significantly in terms of online growth.
"Our team and technology and the IRP ecosystem as a whole, have delivered in very challenging circumstances and proved yet again that our profit focused approach is the best road to success for Irish retailers in online selling."